Senators want more transparency about CIA program that included bulk data collection – CNET

Senators want more transparency about CIA program that included bulk data collection – CNET


A pair of US senators say the CIA needs to be more transparent about a program that included the bulk collection of data, including the information of some Americans, following the partial declassification of a letter revealing its existence.

In the letter sent in April 2021, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, requested the declassification of a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on a CIA bulk collection program.

The letter, which was declassified and made public in a heavily redacted form on Thursday, notes that the bulk collection of data was authorized under an executive order, rather than federal law, and conducted without oversight from Congress, or even the Executive Branch.

In its current form, the letter, which has large sections blacked out, doesn’t reveal when or what kind of data was collected, along with whether the program remains ongoing.

“What these documents demonstrate is that many of the same concerns that Americans have about their privacy and civil liberties also apply to how the CIA collects and handles information under executive order and outside the (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) law,” the senators said in a statement.

Wyden and Heinrich said the CIA needs to reveal more details, including what kind of records were collected and what the legal basis for the collection was, adding that the PCLOB report noted problems with CIA’s handling and searching of Americans’ information under the program.

Officials for the CIA didn’t immediately return an email from CNET seeking comment. But Kristi Scott, the agency’s privacy and civil liberties officer, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal that the CIA   “recognizes and takes very seriously” its obligation to “respect the privacy and civil liberties of US persons.” 

“CIA is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods,” the statement added.

While the CIA is generally barred from domestic spying, some mass data collection operations can scoop up information on Americans, which is something that lawmakers in both parties have long raised privacy concerns about.

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