PPSA Joins Coalition in Calling on Judiciary, Intelligence Committees to Investigate Secret CIA Spying on Americans
Bob Goodlatte: “It is time for our government to quit treating the United States Constitution as a suggestion box."
The Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability joined a coalition of 44 other civil liberties organizations to call on the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence committees to hold inquiries and pass legislation in response to the revelation that the CIA is operating at least two bulk data collection programs sweeping up Americans’ private information.
As revealed in the “Deep Dive I” and “Deep Dive II” documents released by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), these CIA programs are authorized by no law, are accountable to no court, and until recently were kept secret even from the two congressional intelligence committees.
The surveillance described in Deep Dive I includes the bulk acquisition of financial transactions involving Americans and foreign targets. In Deep Dive II, the CIA has not disclosed what type of bulk information it collects on Americans. The coalition letter notes that it appears that this second CIA program involves Americans’ personal communications.
“Four committees have relevant jurisdiction over a CIA that, according to its 1947 charter, is not permitted to spy on American citizens,” said Bob Goodlatte, former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and PPSA senior policy advisor. “At least one of these committees should step up to the plate and provide the American people with basic answers about the nature of these programs. Senators Wyden and Heinrich tell us that Congress was never informed of these programs. At the very least, one would expect these committees of jurisdiction to find out how the CIA could run such extensive surveillance of American citizens without disclosing them to Congress.”
It appears the CIA justifies both lawless programs under Executive Order 12333, which asserts an “inherent constitutional authority” for surveillance by the executive branch. Yet the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020 held that a similar National Security Agency program that collected billions of Americans’ phone record was constitutionally suspect. The coalition letter to the chair and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence committees adds that the “CIA’s bulk spying programs show that current law does not adequately protect Americans from bulk surveillance.”
“Congress should begin with a robust investigation into the CIA’s bulk collection activities,” the letter states. “It is critical that lawmakers have a full picture of what records are being obtained and how; what rules have been put in place to govern the use of these records, and whether these rules have been followed; and how often Americans’ records have been collected and searched, and for what purpose.”
The coalition letter notes the practice of government agencies getting around the constitutional requirement for a probable cause warrant by purchasing Americans’ personal information from data brokers. The coalition calls on Congress to pass the Fourth Amendment Is Not for Sale Act, which would restore the need for warrants to purchase information that otherwise would be subject to the Fourth Amendment.
“It is time for our government to quit treating the United States Constitution as a suggestion box,” Goodlatte said. “And it is time for Congress to exercise its authority to actually oversee what the CIA and other agencies are doing with our personal information.”