Senator sounds the alarm on CIA collection of data on Americans

Senator sounds the alarm on CIA collection of data on Americans
Royalty-free stock photo ID: 381358726. Men Fedora Hats silhouette. Security, Privacy, Surveillance Concept.

Two Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee are shedding light on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) secret data collection practices.

The lawmakers raised their concerns on Thursday, February 10, alleging that the agency "had long hidden details about the program from the public and Congress." According to NBC News, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) penned a letter addressed to The Honorable Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence in Washington, D.C.

Wyden and Heinrich reiterated their concerns about the information being collected on American citizens. Per the Democratic lawmakers, "the CIA’s bulk collection program operates outside of laws passed and reformed by Congress, but under the authority of Executive Order 12333, the document that broadly governs intelligence community activity and was first signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981."

“It is critical that Congress not legislate without awareness of a ... CIA program, and that the American public not be misled into believe that the reforms in any reauthorization legislation fully cover the IC’s collection of their records,” the senators wrote in their letter.

Responding to the letter, Kristi Scott, the CIA's privacy and civil liberties officer, insists the agency is "committed to transparency" although that does not appear to be the case.

“CIA 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,” Scott said in a statement. “CIA is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”

Despite the CIA's claim of transparency, a number of reports are raising concerns. Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, released a statement reacting to the latest findings.

“These reports raise serious questions about the kinds of information the CIA is vacuuming up in bulk and how the agency exploits that information to spy on Americans,” Toomey said in a statement. “The CIA conducts these sweeping surveillance activities without any court approval, and with few, if any, safeguards imposed by Congress.”

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