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.

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Comments on “Senator Bernie Sanders Asks The NSA If It's Spying On Congress”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Trevor (profile) says:

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.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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?

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

out_of_the_blue says:

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.


Anonymous Coward says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘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!

That One Guy (profile) says:

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.

voiceover (profile) says:

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.

mdtrudeau (user link) says:

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 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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