Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said in a letter that was partly declassified Thursday that the CIA has been collecting data in bulk in a secret program that could impact Americans’ privacy.
In a letter sent to CIA Director William J. Burns and National Intelligence Director Avril D. Haines in April 2021, the two Senate Intelligence Committee members called for more information on the program to be declassified.
In the legible portions of the letter, Wyden and Heinrich state that despite “Congress’s intent, expressed over many years and through multiple pieces of legislation, to limit and, in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records, as well as the public’s intense interest in and support for these legislative efforts … the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program.”
“It has done so 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 with FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection,” the lawmakers continue. “This basic fact has been kept from the public and from Congress.”
Wyden and Heinrich concluded by calling on the CIA to reveal its “relationship with its sources and the legal framework for the collection; the kind of records collected [redacted] the amount of Americans’ records maintained; and the rules governing the use, storage, dissemination and queries (including U.S. person queries) of the records.”
“Each of these matters has been the subject of extensive declassifications with regard to NSA’s [National Security Agency] and FBI’s FISA collection; there is no reason why CIA’s activities cannot be equally transparent,” they wrote.
In a statement, the CIA’s privacy and civil liberties officer Kristi Scott said the agency takes its duty to protect the privacy and personal liberties of U.S. residents seriously.
“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,” Scott said, according to the AP. “CIA is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”