Senator’s Letter Claims Secret CIA Surveillance Program Is Collecting Mass Data

Deepak Gupta February 11, 2022
Updated 2022/02/11 at 11:17 AM

the CIA was leading a secret mass surveillance program that affects the privacy of Americans, according to a declassified letter (PDF) by US Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Martin Heinrich (DN.M.). In the letter dated April 2021, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee urged the agency to inform the public of the type of records collected, the amount of US records kept, and the nature of the CIA’s relationship with its sources.

The senators also asked the Director of National Intelligence to declassify studies conducted by a watchdog body called the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.PCLOB), which motivated the letter in the first place. PCLOB undertook in-depth reviews of two CIA counterterrorism-related programs in 2015 as part of a larger oversight review of Executive Order 12333, a Reagan-era OE that extends the powers of US intelligence agencies.

According Wall Street Journal, surveillance activities conducted under EO 12333 – such as the CIA’s mass program – are not subject to the same oversight as those under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The publication also notes that the CIA is not legally authorized to carry out domestic espionage, but some information from Americans is collected in certain cases. An example is if they are communicating with an overseas target over the phone or the internet. Intelligence agencies are also required to protect any US information, such as redacting the names of Americans, unless it is pertinent to the investigation. According to the senators, PCLOB noticed problems with the way the CIA handled and researched Americans’ information under the program.

Senators said the program’s existence was hidden not only from the public but also from Congress. An intelligence officer said The New York Times newspaper, however, the Intelligence Committee already knew about the data collection. It’s the program’s tools for storytelling and querying the collected data, which are discussed in PCLOB reports, which he may not know the details of.

While both letter from senators and one of the PCLOB studies have already been released, both were heavily worded. It is impossible to say, based on the documents that came out, what kind of information was collected and what the nature of the program was. Or is – it’s also unclear if the program is still ongoing or if the CIA has already ended it. The CIA said in a declaration:

“The CIA has kept, and continues to keep, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Standing Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) fully and currently informed of their intelligence programs, to include activities reviewed by the PCLOB. officers have a solemn obligation to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. The CIA will continue to look for opportunities to provide greater transparency of the rules and procedures that govern our collection authorities to both Congress and the American public.”

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