Dem Senators sound off on CIA's move to conceal secret data from Congressional oversight

Dem Senators sound off on CIA's move to conceal secret data from Congressional oversight
Senate Democrats / Wikimedia Commons

Two Democratic senators are expressing concern about the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) alleged program to secretly collect massive amounts of information about Americans; an initiative that the agency has allegedly concealed from Congressional oversight.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) released a letter on Friday, February 11 to shed more light on newly-declassified documents. The two lawmakers issued a warning to top U.S. intelligence officials explaining how "an unspecified 'bulk collection' program was operating 'entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection,'" according to CBC News.

“FISA gets all the attention because of the periodic congressional reauthorizations and the release of DOJ, ODNI, and FISA Court documents,” wrote Wyden and Heinrich in response to the CIA's newly declassified documents.“But what these documents demonstrate is that many of the same concerns that Americans have about their privacy and civil liberties also apply to how the CIA collects and handles information under executive order and outside the FISA law. In particular, these documents reveal serious problems associated with warrantless backdoor searches of Americans, the same issue that has generated bipartisan concern in the FISA context.”

The latest discovery follows the lawmakers' previous letter addressed to U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and CIA Director William Burns back in April 2021. The publicly released letter was a redacted version that excluded many critical details including the true nature of the CIA's data collection program and specifications on the types of data it had accumulated.

Instead, the letter only referred to investigative findings from declassified documents brought to light by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, one of many U.S. intelligence watchdog organizations.

In response to the lawmakers' latest statement, the CIA released a statement of its own insisting the federal agency's top officials are obligated to "take reasonable steps to limit the information collected to only that which is necessary to achieve the purpose of the collection."

The agency also added that protections of privacy are "embedded in these foundational procedures."

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