Senator Bernie Sanders Asks The NSA If It's Spying On Congress

from the but-will-he-believe-the-answer? dept

As it appears that there's increasing momentum within Congress to rein in the NSA and its egregious surveillance activity, Senator Bernie Sanders has stepped in with a simple question for the NSA: is the NSA spying on Congress?
I am writing today to ask you one very simple question. Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials? "Spying" would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.
While many will focus on the basic question of "is the NSA spying on Congress," what's much more important here is the definition that Sanders supplies of "spying." Because we already know the answer is yes. We know that the NSA is gathering metadata on pretty much every phone call that is on a major mobile phone network, meaning that, yes, the NSA is collecting metadata on the phone calls of elected officials.

Knowing the NSA's general history, if it responds at all, it will answer a different question. It will not address the gathering of metadata at all, but rather note that it does not "target" members of Congress. And, of course, even if the NSA claimed it wasn't spying on Congress (which, under Sanders' definition is clearly a lie) why would anyone believe them? President Obama has already made it quite clear that he's fine with senior intelligence community lying to Congress.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 1:59pm

    What will Senator Sanders do with the answer? Believe it? Ha ha.

    We the public have had plenty of opportunities to find out where the answers go. The Snowden leaks caught lie after lie. Clapper admitted he lied to the Congressional Oversight Committee. What makes Senator Sanders believe he will get an answer he can trust?

    Or perhaps he already knows the answer and is waiting to close the trap.

     

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      Lurker Keith, Jan 4th, 2014 @ 5:44pm

      Re:

      His trap is supplying the definition, rather than letting the NSA redefine stuff on their terms.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Jan 6th, 2014 @ 10:24am

      Re:

      perhaps he already knows the answer


      Of course he does. One of the standard rules in congress is that they never ask a question that they don't already know the answer to.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    Congress and "other American elected officials," is who the NSA should be spying on and reporting the corruption to the citizens.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    The Answer

    Dear Bernie Sanders,

    We could tell you, but then we would have to kill you. If you knew the answer to this question, the NSA would be duty bound to call you a traitor and spy who should be hanged.

    Sincerely,
    The NSA

     

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    Guardian, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:10pm

    lol what

    "um not under this program we will tell you about" , ergo doublespeak for were not telling you the truth....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:11pm

    Dear Bernie Sanders,

    We have a lot of information on you we can release if you argue with our answer.

    We do not spy on elected representatives of the people.

    Sincerly
    NSA

     

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    Trevor, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:11pm

    I have a feeling

    I have a feeling Mr. Sanders KNOWS the answer to that question, and that it's "Yes."

    What he's doing is seeing if the NSA will deny it or do a "Not under this section" response.

    Prepare for a new Snowden document next week detailing the NSA program GUBMINT tasked with collecting the metadata of all US elected officials because terrorism.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 4:56pm

      Re: I have a feeling

      Congress will be given the "Least Untruthful Answer" - again.

      The question is, how long until they get pissed and do something about it.

       

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    mr. sim (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    dear god, could congress have finally realized they are being spied on too? this might be the end of the nsa's chicanery.

     

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      DannyB (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:26pm

      Re:

      In a war between the Congress and the NSA, the NSA will probably win.

      NSA already has 'operatives' in Congress -- who parrot whatever the NSA wants said. The NSA can stall investigation or legislation. The NSA can probably blackmail congress critters or even manufacture 'evidence', especially within 'secure' computers -- especially computers that the NSA secures. Finally, the NSA or its friends have the ability to do actual physical harm.

      We become more of a police state every day. At some point, if things cannot be changed, and it may be difficult to recognize precisely when, we will go past an event horizon.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 5:09pm

        Re: Re:

        The congress can also do those things... If a body count builds up, they can use treaties, regulation, leaks, and just telling the public the who and why of people dying. Congress is legally the most powerful entity on the US. I would think that both NSA and congress see that is a bad idea... and there are always other branches of .mil. NSA should just be honest or answer in nonpublic session

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:22pm

    This highlights the double standard here. If it's being done to congress or to certain people the definition of spying becomes very broad. If it's being done on regular citizens the definition of spying becomes very narrow.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:35pm

      Re:

      and it's amazing how well congress members can suddenly articulate themselves when it is in their best interests but when they are speaking or answering questions from the press or the public or they are writing bills they are often so ambiguous that no one knows how to interpret anything they say.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:41pm

      Re:

      and when the government goes on to say that collecting this kind of information from citizens is no big deal, or if members of congress go on to say such a thing, then why is it that congress members are concerned about this information being collected on them? If they have nothing to hide and they aren't terrorists then why should they care? Why is it that they don't seem to be too concerned about this kind of information being collected on citizens but they are so concerned about it being collected on themselves?

       

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      The Wanderer (profile), Jan 18th, 2014 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      I think it's entirely plausible that Mr. Sanders would extend this same definition of spying to cover the general public as well. It's simply that he's presently asking a very specific question (and using that question to provide the definition), chosen for its level of potential to outrage Congress into a response, and that specific question is not about the general public.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:23pm

    We already know the answer to this question. Isn't it obvious by now. The time has clearly passed as to where you need proof of wrong doing to commit absurd acts that violate the constitution so I would say this question doesn't need to be asked and that they are indeed spying on congress and are guilty and we should shut down the agency.

    See how that works.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:28pm

    How long before?

    How long before Congress critters will want to seize control of NSA capabilities and powers in order to use them as political tools?

    Don't think it could happen? Look where we already are.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:32pm

    Stoopid publicity stunt. I've known this for over 20 years

    But Mike can't pass up a FREE press release for another bit of fluff filler.

    "New media" outlets are just like "old media" outlets except aren't yet known to be Establishment outlets, but that's the way to bet. Don't trust anything you read.

    10:32:24[l-025-6]

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:39pm

    I bet Congress is working on drafting a new bill

    The NSA is prohibited from collecting any data about an elected official, their family, friends and close acquaintances. If such data is inadvertently collected it cannot be used in the prosecution of any crime and must be promptly destroyed upon verbal notice from an elected official or their designated agent. Additionally of such data is requested through any means and found to be inadvertently collected said data must be destroyed immediately and no information returned to the requester.

    The term data includes metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 3:15pm

      Re: I bet Congress is working on drafting a new bill

      It will likely be a secret bill that only the NSA knows about interpreted by secret courts.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:41pm

    Yes Senator Sanders, all your meta data has been unconstitutionally logged (seized), and there's a good chance it will also be analyzed (searched) by complex computer algorithms if you start making big enough political "waves", in the water.

    The 215 third party doctrine, loosely states, any information "voluntarily" handed over to a third party, has no expectation of privacy.

    Of course, we all know when we call someone on our cell phone, we have no say on whether or not the call meta data is logged or not.

    There's nothing "voluntary" about handing over meta data. Telcos are required, by law, to log ALL meta data for a set time period. Therefore, the handing over of meta data for telcos to log is "mandatory".

    The handing over of our meta data should be defined as "mandatory", and forbidden from being misinterpreted as "voluntary" under section 215.

     

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      Pragmatic, Jan 6th, 2014 @ 6:52am

      Re:

      Given that many people on the right consider Sanders "an admitted Socialist," I daresay he is indeed being spied on, along with Ron Wyden and other gainsayers.

      I sometimes disagree with my liberal/lefty bretheren but I don't consider them enemies, despite the heat of our debates.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 2:53pm

    'Obama has already made it quite clear that he's fine with senior intelligence community lying to Congress'

    that's because Obama is lying to them as well! cant really call the kettle black, when the pot is of the same color, can he? the only ones who seem to maybe get perhaps a bit of information that is the smallest lie is the security agencies themselves, sometimes!

     

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    Justin (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 3:41pm

    Well....

    That depends on your definition of the word 'is'

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 4:09pm

    This is the real problem

    Soon the party in charge will have enough dirt on the minority party to influence elections. It may be happening already, Obama has no morals so he is definitely not above doing it.

     

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    Frank, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 5:16pm

    An NSA whistleblower already told us...

    Russell Tice (google him), a pre-Snowden NSA whistleblower, already confirmed this. I guess Sanders doesn't know how to google.

     

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      Sunhawk (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 6:53pm

      Re: An NSA whistleblower already told us...

      I feel like Sanders knows the answer and he's trying to force them to admit it to raise support for legislation reining them in.

      Granted, that could be wishful thinking by me of course.

       

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        That One Guy (profile), Jan 5th, 2014 @ 9:31pm

        Re: Re: An NSA whistleblower already told us...

        I can't help but think the same actually, he probably knows(or has a very strong reasonable suspicion of) that the NSA is doing just that, and the purpose behind this is to force them to either lie about it(again), or do the usual dance of 'not under this program', to really bring the extent of the spying to his colleagues' attention, as right now the vast majority probably believe that their communications would never be treated the same as everyone else's, and so can't understand why anyone would object to such 'harmless' surveillance.

         

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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 5:23pm

    He left out the url of websites visited. Which is almost as revealing as the content.

     

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    bgmcb (profile), Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 9:31pm

    Dear Senator Sanders,

    The NSA does not spy on ordinary Americans.

    Thanks
    The NSA.

    P.S. You can count yourself as an ordinary American if you do not:
    1. Use a cell phone.
    2. Speak near a cell phone.
    3. Use a VOIP phone.
    4. Use the internet.
    5. Are in a position to effect the budget of the Homeland Security or Department of Defense.

     

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    voiceover (profile), Jan 4th, 2014 @ 6:45am

    Senator Sanders surely knows what he's doing

    I'd guess this is designed to startle his less bright colleagues (and there are far too many) who may not have grasped that their information is caught up in this worldwide dragnet. And as persons of interest, their ability to keep their dirty secrets secret is clearly jeopardized.

    He's trying to build momentum among his fellows to recognize the danger and reign in the NSA. Added bonus for him is plaguing the NSA with, as Mike noted, the useful framing of the question.

     

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    mdtrudeau, Jan 4th, 2014 @ 6:55pm

    Sanders: Seek the Green Party nomination for president

    Green Party members and other progressives are petitioning Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent, to reach out to prominent Greens such as Jill Stein and to eventually seek the Green Party nomination for president in 2016. Sanders has called for a "political revolution" in the United States and has announced that he might run for president. He has a small window of opportunity to help make that political revolution happen by helping to build the Green Party, which exists in direct opposition to the current two-party system. Please join us by asking Sanders to reach out to Jill Stein and to seek the Green Party nomination. You can read and sign the petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/senator-bernie-sanders-run-for-president-in-2016-as-a-green-party-c andidate. A political revolution will not happen by tinkering within the Democratic Party or by going alone as an independent; if Sanders is going to run, and if he wishes his campaign to have a lasting effect, then he needs a party, and that party needs to be the Green Party.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 4th, 2014 @ 8:59pm

    Of course the NSA is spying on them. How naive are they? They were the first people targetted. That allows the NSA leverage whenever they want a law amended, limits or eliminates hearings, gets them budget increases - or else! Jeez, were they born yesterday?

     

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    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), Jan 5th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    I'll answer what the NSA seems unable to

    They responded that Congress has the same rights as all other americans.

    So the answer is yes.

     

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