NSA

NSA doesn’t deny spying on Congress

US Capitol

The National Security Agency did not deny it spies on Congress when pressed by Sen. Bernie Sanders  in a letter to Gen. Keith Alexander, the outgoing director of the agency.

In the Jan. 3 letter, Sanders defined spying as “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.”

The NSA, in damage control mode since June when leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden began detailing the agency’s surveillance efforts of foreign citizens and Americans, responded to the inquiry Jan. 4 in a statement that tiptoed around Sanders’ question but did not deny that the agency collects communications metadata from U.S. lawmakers.

“NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons,” the statement reads. “Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.”

Whether that “interaction” includes NSA surveillance of lawmakers’ communications was not directly addressed by the agency’s reply, however.

“We are reviewing Senator Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties,” the statement said.

In recent months, media reports – bolstered by information delivered by Snowden – have detailed how the NSA has been able to eavesdrop on leaders in Germany, Mexico, Brazil and a host of other allies.

Reports have also detailed how Americans’ metadata are also gobbled up by the NSA’s enormous surveillance systems, including those that tap into global fiber optic lines and others that harness data from tech companies such as Yahoo and Google. These actions particularly concerned Sanders, who cited in his letter a recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon that such dragnets by the NSA were likely unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian.”

In late December, another judicial ruling – this one by U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley of New York – ruled that the NSA’s phone spying was a reasonable tool to combat terrorism.

The privacy debate is sure to rage on politically and in the courts, but the NSA’s non-denial that it spies on its overseers is likely to spark even closer attention from Congress.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Tue, Jan 7, 2014

1984.... No wait its 2014....

Tue, Jan 7, 2014 Gov Emp101

So is the fact that the NSA surveils members of Congress worse than the fact they surveilled the public? If any group needed oversight........

Mon, Jan 6, 2014 Brandt Hardin United States

The dystopian fantasies of yesteryear are now a reality. We’ve allowed the coming of an age where the civil liberties our forefathers fought so hard for are being eroded by the day. Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly are mere ghostly images of their original intent. We’ve woken up to an Orwellian Society of Fear where anyone is at the mercy of being labeled a terrorist for standing up for rights we took for granted just over a decade ago. Read about how we’re waging war against ourselves at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-in-society-of-fear-ten-years.html

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group