Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) (Image credit: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr)
Two senators are now calling on the National Security Agency (NSA) to correct the “misleading” statements made in agency’s fact sheet on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“In our judgment this inaccuracy is significant, as it portrays protections for Americans’ privacy being significantly stronger than they actually are,” Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Ore.) stated.
The fact sheet released by the NSA deal with section 702 of FISA, which enables the collection of phone and internet communications, along with section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which enables the bulk collection of phone records.
“We were disappointed to see that this fact sheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government,” the senators wrote in a letter to Gen. Keith Alexander.
Unfortunately, the details were included in a classified attachment to the letter.
One can’t really put the blame on Udall and Wyden for identifying the details in a classified attachment given the fact that the government’s interpretation of the law is itself secret.
“Unfortunately, we can’t describe the inaccuracy in detail without divulging information that is currently classified,” Tom Caiazza, a spokesman for Wyden said to the Guardian. “For now we can say that there is an inaccurate statement in the fact sheet publicly released and posted on the NSA website that portrays protections for Americans’ privacy as being stronger than they are.”
However, Wyden and Udall did identify the fact sheet’s claim that “any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a US person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime,” as “somewhat misleading.”
The statement itself contradicts what the NSA previously claimed about not possibly being able to know how many Americans had their communications collected.
That claim was also contradicted by the recently revealed “Boundless Informant” software.
The statement itself “implies that [the NSA] does know what has been inadvertently collected and can thereby destroy it,” as Meghan Kelly pointed out in Venture Beat.
Furthermore, the senators pointed out that the statement implies “that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans.”
“As you have seen, when the NSA makes inaccurate statements about government surveillance and fails to correct the public record, it can decrease public confidence in the NSA’s openness and its commitment to protecting Americans’ constitutional rights,” the senators wrote.
“Rebuilding this confidence will require a willingness to correct misstatements and a willingness to make reforms where appropriate,” they added.
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