NSA's privacy pledges not enough for some in Congress

The National Security Agency's assurances that it does not intentionally

eavesdrop on the electronic communications of U.S. citizens and that it

adheres to legal guidelines governing its activities are not enough for

some members of Congress, who plan to hold hearings on the agency and its

activities later this year.

Shortly after NSA delivered to Congress a report on the legal standards

governing the intelligence community's electronic surveillance conduct,

as required by the fiscal 2000 Intelligence Authorization Act, Rep. Bob

Barr (R-Ga.) sent a letter to NSA's director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael

Hayden, outlining "problems" with current laws and regulations.

In his Feb. 28 letter, Barr said Hayden's assurances that the Fourth

Amendment of the U.S. Constitution adequately protects citizens' privacy

regardless of the technologies used in NSA's electronic surveillance operations

"grossly oversimplifies the difficulty of protecting privacy in light of

recent technological advances."

NSA is a civilian intelligence agency within the Defense Department

responsible for intercepting and analyzing communications signals of foreign

adversaries and terrorist groups. However, the agency's activities have

come under scrutiny as a result of widespread allegations that it takes

part in a global surveillance network known as Echelon that regularly intercepts

the communications of private citizens worldwide.

Sources on Capitol Hill say Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the

House Government Reform Committee, plans to hold hearings on NSA activities

soon and may meet with Barr in the next few weeks to map out a hearing strategy.

In his letter to Hayden, Barr, a member of the Government Reform Committee

and a former CIA officer, said he is concerned about the ability of current

laws and executive orders to keep pace with information technology.

"As past NSA abuses have shown, privacy rights are better protected

by relying on an evolving, explicit legal structure than by solely on the

good faith of government employees wielding massive power and reciting generalities,"

Barr wrote.


Legal Standards Governing the Intelligence Community's Conduct ofElectronic Surveillance

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Requires the intelligence agency toobtain a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ifthe target of the surveillance is a U.S. person as defined by law.

Executive Order 12333. Signed by President Ronald Regan in 1981. Prohibitsthe collection, retention, or dissemination of information about U.S.persons except pursuant to procedures established by the head of the agencyand approved by the Attorney General.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The right of the people to besecure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonablesearches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue,but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularlydescribing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to beseized.

BY Daniel Verton
Mar. 1, 2000

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