February 11th, 2022
Two Democrat senators are alleging the CIA has a secret data trove that includes information collected about Americans.
In a letter sent to the clandestine agency, the senators allege the CIA has long hidden details about the program from the public and the legislative branch, according to the Associated Press.
Sens. Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Martin Heinrich, of New Mexico, called for a declassification of the program, though significant parts of their letter, sent in April 2021, were redacted.
The lawmakers say they think the program operated “outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection.”
Though the CIA, the country’s top spy operation and the National Security Agency, are typically barred from monitoring U.S. citizens and businesses, the agencies’ focus on foreign communications sometimes encapsulates messages and data incidentally belonging to Americans.
The CIA’s privacy and civil liberties officer, Kristi Scott, said the agency “recognizes and takes very seriously our obligation to respect the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons in the conduct of our vital national security mission. CIA is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”
Wyden and Heinrich have historically been advocates for transparency among the U.S. intelligence agencies. Years ago, Wyden asked then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if the NSA was collecting “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Clapper initially responded “no,” but then said, “not wittingly.”
The lawmakers’ letter emphasizes the importance of congressional awareness of CIA data collection programs to properly legislate.
They also argue it is important that “the American public not be misled into believe that the reforms in any reauthorization legislation fully cover the [U.S. intelligence community’s] collection of their records.”