In news that isn’t news to those in the know, a newly-declassified letter from two Democrat senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that the CIA maintains a hitherto undisclosed repository of data on American citizens. The Washington Post reports:
Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico sent a letter to top intelligence officials calling for more details about the program to be declassified. Large parts of the letter, which was sent in April 2021 and declassified Thursday, and documents released by the CIA were blacked out. Wyden and Heinrich said the program operated “outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection.”
The belief that the CIA has long held information deemed outside its prerogative as a collector of data on foreign countries to protect American interests at home and abroad is nothing new. While the greatest amount of attention in this area has been paid to the NSA due in no small part to Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations, as the Post article details, ofttimes information on American citizens becomes part of the data mining, but:
Intelligence agencies are required to take steps to protect U.S. information, including redacting the names of any Americans from reports unless they are deemed relevant to an investigation. The process of removing redactions is known as “unmasking.”
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In the letter, Wyden and Heinrich reiterate Congress’s intent to limit/prohibit “the warrantless collection of Americans’ records, as well as the public’s intense interest in and support for these legislative efforts.” Knowing that, the CIA “secretly conducted its own bulk program [redacted]” and “has done so entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection” and without oversight.
And, Wyden and Heinrich are demanding declassification and transparency.
Screenshot from Sen. Wyden & Heinrich Letter declassified February 10, 2022.
CIA Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer Kristi Scott said in a statement:
“CIA recognizes and takes very seriously our obligation to respect the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. persons in the conduct of our vital national security mission. CIA is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”
A side note to the above is drawn from family history. My late father had interactions during his military and civilian careers with various US intelligence agencies and would occasionally tell me bits of information about how they operated without ever detailing any operations. One fact he stressed to me is that while on the surface different agencies, such as the CIA and NSA, play up their differences much like the Army and Navy, where it counts the two are very much one in sharing data – though according to insiders and reports from our own Jennifer Van Laar some of that has changed over the years. Also, he said agencies are far more adept at their jobs than they sometimes lead the public to perceive.
Senators Wyden and Heinrich may well be sincere in their desire for more transparency, but if they have a clue they are also more than willing to play the public outrage game as a diversion from the CIA and NSA’s actual data accumulation (i.e., there’s a reason this report ran in the Washington Post). This is not Alex Jones tinfoil fodder, but rather the way it has been since the Cold War.