Newly declassified documents indicate the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has been secretly collecting private data on Americans without oversight for years using a massive surveillance program.
The program has reportedly been operated without congressional approval, any court approval, or any safeguards to ensure the protection of civil liberties.
Not to mention the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless searches.
Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have called for “critically needed” transparency on the program.
The two lawmakers posted a letter they sent to Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, and William Burns, the CIA director, on April 13, 2021 and which was declassified on Thursday.
In it, they accuse the CIA of conducting the program “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 FISA collection.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted that the new reports “raise serious questions about what information of ours the CIA is vacuuming up in bulk and how the agency exploits that information to spy on Americans.”
“This invasion of our privacy must stop,” they added.
In light of the report showing the CIA collecting private data on American en masse, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who rose to prominence by working with Edward Snowden to reveal unconstitutional spying programs, harshly criticized the agency as a “criminal organization.”
“The CIA is a criminal organization,” he tweeted. “Their interference in US politics is particularly pernicious.”
Greenwald pointed out that the media often uses CIA analysts as commentators on the “news.”
“Maybe journalists should be skeptical of their planted stories?” he suggested.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shared the CIA mass surveillance of private data story calling it “huge.”
Fox News reports that the bulk surveillance program operates under the authority of Executive Order 12333, first signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
The order was amended in 2008 through Executive Order 13470 by President George W. Bush which strengthened the role of the Director of National Intelligence.
“The CIA and National Security Agency have a foreign mission and are generally barred from investigating Americans or U.S. businesses,” Fox reports. “But the spy agencies’ sprawling collection of foreign communications often snares Americans’ messages and data incidentally.”
Wyden (D-OR) and Heinrich (D-NM) called for new transparency about the bulk surveillance of private data conducted by the CIA.
“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,” they said.
“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,” a press release from the lawmakers reads.
What could possibly go wrong here? Let’s focus on today, as an example.
Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden tweeted not that long ago that it would be a “good idea” to send unvaccinated Trump supporters to Afghanistan.
What if somebody like that, while working for the CIA, had access to private data about Americans and their vaccination status?
The Democrat senators did not reveal what type of data is being caught up in the CIA program.
An intelligence official insists the Senate Intelligence Committee was already aware of the agency’s classified collection of the data, if not the sources used or the data itself.
In their letter from 2021, Wyden and Heinrich pressed the CIA to reveal the kinds of records it was collecting and “the rules governing the use, storage, dissemination and queries (including U.S. person queries) of the records.”
Last summer, Fox News host Tucker Carlson received a fair share of criticism for claiming a whistleblower within the United States government provided information that the Biden administration – particularly the NSA – had been spying on his texts and emails as a means “to take this show off the air.”
“It’s illegal for the NSA to spy on American citizens, it’s a crime,” Carlson stated at the time. “It’s not a third-world country. Things like that should not happen in America.”
“If they are doing it to us – and again, they are definitely doing it to us – they are almost certainly doing it to others,” he said. “This is scary, and we need to stop it right away.”
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