By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WASHINGTON (Worthy News) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency spies on Americans as part of a controversial program that has been hidden from Congress and the public, senators say.
Large parts of the letter, which was sent in April 2021, were declassified Thursday. Wyden and Heinrich said the program operated “outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection.”
They urged the CIA to inform Americans about the possible illegal program, including what kinds of records were collected.
The senators also wanted to know the spy agency’s relationship with its sources of intelligence and the program’s legal framework.
Additionally, the senators demanded clarifications on the number of Americans’ records being maintained and how often searches of U.S. data are performed.
“This declassification is urgent,” the senators wrote.
It comes amid broader concerns about what the
the intelligence community collects domestically, driven in part by previous violations of Americans’ civil liberties.
The CIA and National Security Agency have a foreign mission and are generally barred from investigating Americans or U.S. businesses.
In 2013, Wyden asked then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper initially responded, “No.” He later said, “Not wittingly.”
Former systems administrator Edward Snowden later that year revealed the NSA’s access to bulk data.
Snowden, who fled to Russia, revealed that the NSA worked through American internet companies and hundreds of millions of call records from telecommunications providers.
Those revelations sparked worldwide controversy and new legislation in Congress.
Concerned legislators also want to prevent a repeat of an era when the Federal Bureau of Investigation spied on the U.S. civil rights movement.
Following these and other controversies, intelligence agencies are subject to stricter guidelines on handling and destroying Americans’ data.
In a reaction, the CIA said it respects the fundamental human rights of Americans. “The 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,” Kristi Scott, the agency’s privacy and civil liberties officer.
Scott added that the CIA “conducts our activities, including collection activities, in compliance with U.S. law, Executive Order 12333, and our Attorney General guidelines.”
Executive Order 12333 refers to a document backed by then-President Ronald Reagan setting rules for some methods of U.S. intelligence gathering.
The CIA, Scott said, “is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”
Experts say, however, that the spy agencies’ sprawling collection of foreign communications often snares Americans’ messages and data incidentally.
Yet, Snowden and others suggested that spying on ordinary Americans was part of policies hidden from the public and moved the U.S. towards an all-knowing Big Brother state.