Search form

NSA Fails to Deny Spying on Congress As FISA Court Reauthorizes Phone Metadata Seizure

NSA Fails to Deny Spying on Congress As FISA Court Reauthorizes Phone Metadata Seizure
This article originally appeared on The Guardian

The National Security Agency on Saturday released a statement in answer to questions from a senator about whether it “has spied, or is … currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials,” in which it did not deny collecting communications from legislators of the U.S. Congress to whom it says it is accountable.

In a letter dated January 3, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont 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 agency has been at the center of political controversy since a former contractor, Edward Snowden, released thousands of documents on its activities to media outlets including the Guardian.

In its statement, which comes as the NSA gears up for a make-or-break legislative battle over the scope of its surveillance powers, the agency pointed to “privacy protections” which it says it keeps on all Americans' phone records.

The statement read: “NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. 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.

“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.”

Soon after Sanders' letter was published, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, the body which exists to provide government oversight of NSA surveillance activities, had renewed the domestic phone records collection order for another 90 days.

On Saturday, the New York Times published a letter from Robert Litt, in which the general counsel for the Office of National Intelligence denied allegations that Clapper lied to Congress in March, when questioned about NSA domestic surveillance.

Last month, two federal judges issued contradictory verdicts on whether such NSA surveillance was constitutional. Judge Richard Leon said it was not constitutional; Judge William Pauley said that it was.

As reported by Ryan J. Reilly in the Huffington Post:

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday reauthorized the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program, the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement. The reauthorization order was not immediately available, but the administration is undertaking a declassification review, officials said.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper pointed out that several federal judges have upheld the so-called metadata collection program. Separately, government lawyers on Friday asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to overturn the one recent ruling that found the surveillance program unconstitutional.

Below, a statement on the FISA decision:

On several prior occasions, the Director of National Intelligence has declassified information about the telephony metadata collection program under the “business records” provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 50 U.S.C. Section 1861 (also referred to as “Section 215”), in order to provide the public a more thorough and balanced understanding of the program. Consistent with his prior declassification decisions and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, DNI Clapper has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the court renewed that authority on January 3, 2014. It is the administration's view, consistent with the recent holdings of the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York and Southern District of California, as well as the findings of 15 judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on 36 separate occasions over the past seven years, that the telephony metadata collection program is lawful. The Department of Justice has filed an appeal of the lone contrary decision issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Nevertheless, the Intelligence Community continues to be open to modifications to this program that would provide additional privacy and civil liberty protections while still maintaining its operational benefits. To that end, the Administration is carefully evaluating the recommendation of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies regarding transitioning the program to one in which the data is held by telecommunications companies or a third party. In addition, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will complete a report on this program in the near future. The Administration will review all of these recommendations and consult with Congress and the Intelligence Community to determine if there are ways to achieve our counterterrorism mission in a manner that gives the American people greater confidence. The Administration is undertaking a declassification review of this most recent court order.

Originally published by The Guardian

Article Tabs

Detroit foreclosures, Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction, tax foreclosure auctions, online auction, foreclosed homes

The largest known municipal foreclosure sale to date, the Detroit home sell-off could be a modern take on Manifest Destiny – luring would-be frontiersmen and speculators from across the world to try their hand at “buying Detroit.”

corporate tax avoidance, corporate tax dodgers, corporate taxes, corporate tax havens, corporate tax deductions

The corporate world paid about half their required taxes, revealing the extent to which Americans are being deprived of revenue that should be going to education and infrastructure.

money in politics, Super PACs, political action committees, Citizens United, money is not speech, Larry Lessig, campaign finance reform

To watch American politics today is to watch money speaking – and the sums involved dwarf those in any other mature democracy.

The idea for an international bank had already been explored to some extent by people like the economist John Maynard Keynes. But the idea for the bank truly took off during the Young Conference in 1929, when the Allies were attempting to exact Germany’s reparations debts for WWI.

The Port of Los Angeles. (Green Fire Productions / Flickr)

After years of tenacious effort, workers throughout the nation's largest port – spread across parts of both Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA – may soon share one important tool their predecessors once had: a union., Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, civil forfeiture, money laundering, unequal justice, Internet freedom

Vast resources of the U.S. government are being deployed at the bidding of the entertainment industry, which saw its profits threatened by Internet pioneers like Dotcom and his Megaupload content-sharing empire.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago
#BlackWorkersMatter, Black Lives Matter, racial justice, racial justice, economic justice, black unions, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Black Worker Initiative, Institute for Southern Studies, Black Workers for Justice

Black workers have been, for the working class as a whole, the canary in the mine. What befalls the black worker inevitably confronts the bulk of the U.S. working class.

Posted 6 days 8 hours ago

This week, from med students to female priests, fasters to the monopoly man, we've got a helluva lineup – first up, let's talk Medicare and why it shouldn't be so ageist.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago
war machine, Paris climate summit, carbon emissions, military carbon emissions, weapons for oil, war fueling climate change, perpetual war, 1% profits

Oil and the war business are as connected to each other as they are tied to capitalism – which is why, to tackle climate change, we need to dismantle both.

Posted 4 days 7 hours ago
Bank for International Settlements

While its purpose has changed and evolved over the decades, the BIS has always been a club for central bankers – one that has aided some countries more than others.

Posted 6 days 9 hours ago
mountaintop coal removal, Don Blankenship, Massey Energy Co., coal mine explosions, coal mine disasters, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Alpha Natural Resources Inc., United Mine Workers of America

Prosecutors charge that Don Blankenship lied to financial regulators and conspired to violate safety regulations before April 5, 2010, when a massive blast in the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia killed 29 men.

Pope Francis, climate change, 2015 UN Climate Conference, COP21, Paris climate summit, encyclical, Acronym TV

As a recovering Catholic, I watched Pope Francis's historic six-day visit to the U.S. with mixed feelings.

The Port of Los Angeles. (Green Fire Productions / Flickr)

After years of tenacious effort, workers throughout the nation's largest port – spread across parts of both Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA – may soon share one important tool their predecessors once had: a union.

Only roughly half of the 50 states have worker co-op statutes on the books.

ShellNo, Shell Arctic drilling, carbon emissions, oil spills, Chukchi Sea, kayaktivists

The oil giant abandoned its Arctic search for oil after failing to find enough crude, representing a big defeat for Big Oil after months of sustained protests.

Sign Up