NSA Skirts Around Spying On Congress Question
Seth Fitzgerald | On 04, Jan 2014
The NSA is now dodging a question from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) regarding whether or not the US spy agency had ever placed surveillance on elected officials, particular congressmen.
In a carefully worded response to Sanders’s question, the NSA stated that congressmen have the same protection from spying that all other US citizens have. Unfortunately, as we have learned from some of the Edward Snowden documents, as well as other leaks, there are some situations where the NSA does appear to spy on US citizens, which may include government personnel based upon the NSA’s statement.
NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US 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. - NSA, in a statement given to The Guardian
Sanders’s original question included a definition of what should be considered spying.
[spying] would include 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. - Bernie Sanders, US Senator
The spying mentioned by Sanders is currently being debated in the courts, with one Judge stating that it may be unconstitutional, whereas another Judge ruled in December that the collection of phone metadata violated no current law.
However, if it was revealed that the NSA was directly spying on US congressmen, it may affect their opinions on the spying issue in future votes.
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. - NSA
By only guaranteeing that senators can expect the same amount of protection as regular US citizens, the government personnel do not seem to have any reason to expect that they will actually be left alone or excluded from the NSA spy programs.
Summary: The NSA has released a statement which neither confirms nor denies the possibility that it would monitor the communications of US congressmen or other officials. This statement was in response to a question from Senator Bernie Sanders’s, which specifically asked if the NSA spies on elected officials.
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