Senators have accused the CIA of gathering massive amounts of data through a secret program that operates outside of the law. However, what the program entails and what types of data it collects are unknown.
On Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich sent the CIA a letter that had been declassified but partially redacted. The report claimed the CIA was collecting bulk data under the authority of Executive Order 12333 in violation of laws passed by Congress. President Reagan signed the Executive Order in 1981 to govern intelligence community activities.
“It has done so outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe governs this collection, and without any of the judicial, legislative, or executive oversight that comes with FISA collection,” the letter stated, in reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is a basic fact that has been withheld from the public and from Congress. The CIA’s collection was even withheld from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence until the PCLOB report was delivered last month.”
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) also had a report declassified by the CIA, which provided recommendations about the secret program. PCLOB urges the CIA to require agency analysts to justify data searches on US citizens. According to their report, the only warning agency analysts get is an easily dismissed pop-up box.
According to coverage from The Hill, CIA privacy and civil liberties officer Kristi Scott provided a statement on the matter.
“CIA recognizes and takes seriously its obligation to respect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans in carrying out its vital national security mission,” Scott said, according to the Associated Press. The CIA is committed to transparency in line with its obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”
The Senate members say that the declassified documents expose serious issues with warrantless backdoor searches of Americans. This echoes concerns Americans have regarding how the CIA handles data collection. As a result, senators Wyden and Heinrich are both pressuring the CIA to have more transparency about the data collected and the process of using that data.
The CIA has had security issues surrounding their data collection in the past. A leak of the CIA’s “Vault 7” in 2017 revealed where hacking tools are stored.