October 7, 2022

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Sen. Wyden: Secret CIA program conducted surveillance on Americans

2 min read
The CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk data collection program, without any oversight from Congress, the courts, or even the executive branch.

The CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk data collection program, without any oversight from Congress, the courts, or even the executive branch.

Newly Declassified Documents Reveal Previously Secret CIA Bulk Collection, Problems With CIA Handling of Americans’ Information

Senators Call for Critically Needed Transparency About CIA Bulk Collection; Documents Declassified at Wyden and Heinrich’s Request

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for new transparency about bulk surveillance conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, following the release of documents that revealed a secret bulk collection program and problems with how the agency searches and handles Americans’ information.

Wyden and Heinrich requested the declassification of a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on a CIA bulk collection program, in a letter sent April 13, 2021. The letter, which was declassified and made public today reveals that “the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program,” authorized under Executive Order 12333, rather than the laws passed by Congress.

The letter notes that the program was “entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection, and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight that comes from [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection.” 

“FISA gets all the attention because of the periodic congressional reauthorizations and the release of DOJ, ODNI and FISA Court documents,” said Senators Wyden and Heinrich in response to the 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.”

Wyden and Heinrich called for more transparency from the CIA, including what kind of records were collected and the legal framework for the collection. The PCLOB report noted problems with CIA’s handling and searching of Americans’ information under the program.

“While we appreciate the release of the ‘Recommendations from PCLOB Staff’ which highlights problems associated with the handling of Americans’ information, our letter also stressed that the public deserves to know more about the collection of this information. The DNI and the CIA Director have started this process. We intend to continue to urge them to achieve the transparency the American people deserve.”

The Wyden-Heinrich letter is here.

A portion of PCLOB’s report on the program was made public here.

PCLOB ‘failed the public’ June 2021 statement by board member Travis LeBlanc is here.

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