NSA Refuses To Say It’s Not Spying On Members Of Congress
The idea that the NSA could be spying on members of Congress is absolutely unacceptable.
“Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other elected officials?”
That’s the question Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) put to the National Security Agency’s chief in a bluntly worded letter Friday. It seems, however, that the agency cannot categorically say no.
Sanders didn’t use the word “spy” lightly. He was careful to define his terms, indicating he meant the collection of phone records from personal as well as official telephones, “content from Web sites visited or e-mails sent,” and data that companies collect but don’t release to the public.
When asked by The Washington Post, an NSA spokesman said that the agency’s privacy safeguards are effective at covering all Americans.
“Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons,” the spokesman said. “We are reviewing Sen. Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Sen. Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.”
The answer is telling. We already know that the NSA collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States. That program was renewed for the 36th time on Friday. If members of Congress are treated no differently than other Americans, then the NSA likely keeps tabs on every call they make as well.
This is extremely disturbing because it opens up the possibility that the NSA could be blackmailing members of Congress. Sound implausible? It shouldn’t, after J. Edgar Hoover collected information on members of Congress and used it to keep them in line. If the courts won’t do the right thing and get the NSA under control, then Congress should step up and do the job.