NSA More Or Less Admits To Spying On Congress

from the of-course-it-does dept

On Friday, we noted that Senator Bernie Sanders had asked the NSA if it spied on members of Congress. He was very explicit in how he defined “spying” such that the NSA couldn’t legitimately deny it — since the definition included collecting metadata on their calls — something the NSA absolutely does. In response to press requests, it appears that the NSA has issued a statement to a variety of publications, basically admitting that of course it spies on Congress, because it collects everyone’s data.

NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.

We are reviewing Senator Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.

The key line: “Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons.” Meaning, basically, that they have no privacy protections when it comes to the NSA collecting data.

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Comments on “NSA More Or Less Admits To Spying On Congress”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“The key line: “Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons.” Meaning, basically, that they have no privacy protections when it comes to the NSA collecting data.”

Nonsense Mike! Throwing your data and everyone else’s in a giant pile is plenty of privacy protections! That way, they MAY look at your data, or because there’s so much of it to look through, they MAY decide they don’t have the time to look at the intelligence their spying has gathered on you, which means you ‘technically’ weren’t spied on!

It’s just like when a peeping Tom installs a hidden camera in a bathroom or dressing room. Sure it gets lots of pictures of people exposing themselves or naked, but if the peeping Tom doesn’t even look at those pictures, then they didn’t do anything illegal and can’t be arrested for the pictures their hidden cameras took!

Anonymous Coward says:

Another jewel from the NSA whom can not tell the truth at any point. It hedges every thing, redefines words, and tries misdirection.

There is no oversight on the NSA. Every type of organization, every opportunity to exercise that oversight is blocked in any manner that can be thought of to prevent it. Lying to the oversight committee, no problem, claiming National Security issues to prevent data getting out, no problem, getting politicians to speak up for it, no problem. What you don’t see is meaningful oversight at all.

Exactly why is congress and congress’s privacy more important than the average citizens?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly why is congress and congress’s privacy more important than the average citizens?

Because if someone blackmails members of Congress the outcome could be much more severe than if they blackmailed some random person.

Of course, they don’t have to resort to blackmail – that’s far too dangerous because the person might then report that the NSA is blackmailing them, and that could be enough to bring the entire organization down. Much safer would be to simply make sure their opponents get all their dirty laundry aired. An anonymous tip that candidate X is having an affair, and which hotel they use, given to the right investigative reporter, could ruin their chances of being elected. If favorable candidate Y is having an affair, just ignore it.

I’m not saying they do this. I’m merely saying that since they collect so much information, they COULD. And nobody would know.

Trevor (profile) says:


The NSA admitted that it treats elected officials the same as everyone else. The NSA also claimed that it gives everyone in the US high privacy protections subject to oversight.

A while ago, this came out:

It was discovered that the NSA gave raw data (unfiltered nor censored) to Israel. This data included information on US Citizens.

Therefore, the NSA gave private information of elected officials to Israel. and SNOWDEN is the one guilty of treason? 😉


Trevor says:

Re: Re: Re: Oops

Eh, “treason” wasn’t the right word to use, but it highlights how someone who exposes arguably illegal activity, and active spying on ELECTED OFFICIALS and then giving that information to ANOTHER COUNTRY with NO SAFEGUARDS, is the one hunted for and labeled as committing “treason” but the people and organizations that perpetuate that activity feel no adverse effects (other than wrist slapping at “hearings”).

/rant /rant

Phillip (profile) says:

As it should be

If they are going to collect this information congress should have the same or less protections than the rest of America. This is the only way to get them to pay attention or care. Normally they carve out exceptions for themselves, and thus don’t pay attention to or care what they’re law create. Like the TSA, congress gets to skip them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: As it should be

We keep hearing the “political class” mentioned in the news when talking about elected officials. That has always struck me as a very anti-American ideology. If only a certain class of people gets elected, does that not work counter to the American idea of a government of, by, and for the people? Our country has been hijacked. We all know it.

Trevor (profile) says:

Re: How long does that take?

They have to figure out what they meant by “it” and “the” and “a” and every other word in the letter. BECAUSE CONTEXT PEOPLE.

Also, from what we know about the NSA’s capabilities, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a copy of the letter before it was even sent across the hall to the office printer…

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: How long does that take?

The NSA’s delay in ‘reviewing’ a one page letter with only one question may be due to issues they are having with their ‘truth management’ software.

This innovative new class of government software, licensed from SCO, keeps track of which truths you’ve told to which parties, and helps you to manage the picture of overall truth that each party sees over time without presenting them with conflicting truths.

The NSA is being truthful to the extent that the NSA is capable of telling the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, would YOU trust a US congressman?

I mean, have you seen the way those guys act? They’re clearly untrustworthy. Plus, they can stroll right past the TSA without having their underwear scanned or body cavities probed; they’re clearly a threat to the American way of life.
The NSA has displayed great foresight in anticipating the impending rise of congressional terrorists, or “terrorgressts”. The next 9/11 is going to happen any day now, after all. (The current one’s getting a little stale.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait until they use the info on political opponents

As I have been saying here and elsewhere, they will eventually, if they haven’t already, use the info they have gathered against political opponents. Right now the NSA answers to Obama, with his track record it would be easy to believe that he is using the info against his opponents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

I wonder. Remember that video of a vibrant candidate Obama, boldly declaring that he’d stop the surveillance, compared with a recent president Obama, pale and drawn, trying to explain how harvesting metadata totally isn’t surveillance?

The NSA has dirt on everyone. We already know they spy on world leaders, US citizens, and US elected officials. I’d honestly be surprised if they weren’t able to blackmail Obama.

Of course, if that’s the case, it means Obama isn’t willing to put everything on the line for what he thinks is right. Which wouldn’t really be news, I suppose.
(I don’t suppose we could have Ed Snowden as a presidential candidate in 2016?)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Wait until they use the info on political opponents

I think it’s mostly wishful thinking, the idea that they would act in the public’s best interest, if they didn’t have something like that hanging over their head keeping them from doing so.

The alternative, that those in charge, elected by the people, and who are supposed to serve and represent the people, instead couldn’t care less about the people, and only care about their own power and prestige… that’s quite the bitter pill to swallow for most people.

Anonymous Coward says:

it is a trick question anyway. The senator knows they are spying on them. the NSA can’t give a satisfactory answer. if they say yes, they admit to essentially treason, if they say no, they additionally lie to the people overseeing their action. the NSA has to evaluate how to minimise the damage to themselves.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I read somewhere that this was just stupid grandstanding on the part of the Senator. I think there is a more interesting point being missed, CongressCritters are now aware that they are not immune from this. They often think they are left out of rules and laws (they write them that way). Now imagine how many CongressCritters might be sweating knowing that some smartass 20something could still pull a Snowden and walk their metadata out.
It is one thing to suspect that Congress is bought by corporations, it is another to connect all of those dots with hard data.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

‘…just stupid grandstanding…’

On the contrary, this seems to be one of the rare cases of political action that isn’t little more than grandstanding and PR, this is, I imagine, exactly what the one who sent the letter hoped for, which is making the others in the government aware that they are having their communications tapped just like everyone else.

On it’s own that would be bad enough, but due to their positions, and ability to dramatically change things by writing new laws and changing/repealing old ones, that automatically makes every last one of them ‘persons of interest’ to a spy agency like the NSA, meaning that while most people who have their data scooped up probably won’t ever have it looked at by a living person due to the sheer volume, their data does not share that same status.

And as you say, it’s one thing to suspect that those in government have been bought and are working for corporations, having proof of it’s another matter entirely, proof the NSA would be able to obtain through their spying quite easily, which is likely to really get the congressmen and senators’ attention, even if they didn’t particularly care before.

QuietgyInTheCorner (profile) says:

Our interaction with Congress has been extensive....

Translating this, it means:
“We’ve been asked a lot of hard-hitting questions by congress that we’ve had to think hard about before
(1) evading the question
(2) using misdirection to appear to answer the question without actually doing so, and/or
(3) being somewhat “untruthful”.
But this is all ok, because
(1) we’re the NSA,
(2) we didn’t use a computer to do it, and
(3) well, you know .. “terrorists” …

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