Human Rights

The NSA Is Probably Spying on Congress

A statement issued by the National Security Agency did not deny they were spying on members of Congress.

Photo Credit: U.S. Government/Wikimedia Commons

Is the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting data on Congress? Probably.

As The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman reported, on January 3rd, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I) sent a letter to the NSA inquiring about whether the intelligence agency was collecting the metadata or monitoring the content of Congressional members’ phone calls and e-mails.  

Sanders got an answer on Saturday.  The Guardian’s Ackerman and Martin Pengelly report that the NSA’s response did not deny they were spying on members of Congress. “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,” the NSA said.

But there’s no explicit denial of spying on Congress.  It stands to reason that since all Americans’ phone calls are being swooped by by the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, Congressional officials are included.  At least when it comes to the NSA, the nation's elite and ordinary people are treated the same.  (The NSA claims that they only engage in surveillance when analyzing the specific contents of phone calls, and not when it collects data, though Sanders considers both of those activities spying.)

The response to Sanders’ letter was soon followed by the announcement that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has authorized the NSA to continue collecting the metadata in bulk for the next 90 days, as they’ve done since 2006.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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