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Excerpt: "In its statement, which comes as the NSA gears up for a make-or-break legislative battle...the agency pointed to 'privacy protections' which it says it keeps on all Americans' phone records."

Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo:
Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo:

NSA Statement Does Not Deny 'Spying' on Members of Congress

By Spencer Ackerman, Martin Pengelly, Guardian UK

05 January 14


• Agency responds to questions from Senator Bernie Sanders
• Statement cites 'same privacy protections as all US persons'

he National Security Agency on Saturday released a statement in answer to questions from a senator about whether it “has spied, or is … currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials”, in which it did not deny collecting communications from legislators of the US Congress to whom it says it is accountable.

In a letter dated 3 January, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont defined “spying” as “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business”.

The agency has been at the centre of political controversy since a former contractor, Edward Snowden, released thousands of documents on its activities to media outlets including the Guardian.

In its statement, which comes as the NSA gears up for a make-or-break legislative battle over the scope of its surveillance powers, the agency pointed to “privacy protections” which it says it keeps on all Americans' phone records.

The statement read: “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.”

Soon after Sanders' letter was published, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) Court, the body which exists to provide government oversight of NSA surveillance activities, had renewed the domestic phone records collection order for another 90 days.

On Saturday, the New York Times published a letter from Robert Litt, in which the general counsel for the Office of National Intelligence denied allegations that Clapper lied to Congress in March, when questioned about NSA domestic surveillance.

Last month, two federal judges issued contradictory verdicts on whether such NSA surveillance was constitutional. Judge Richard Leon said it was not constitutional; Judge William Pauley said that it was. your social media marketing partner


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+47 # polfrosch 2014-01-05 10:02
- the masters with the will to power,
- the desire to spy on everyones thoughts
- and unlimited capability to come up with weasel words when reporting what they really do.
+47 # Michaeljohn 2014-01-05 10:40
And, unfortunately, the willing acceptance of a generally docile public.
+31 # jorarmed 2014-01-05 11:21
What they are doing is not because of "the desire to spy…"It fits in a geopolitical scheme for the world, but first and principal for the USA. This plan has been developing for a long time now, with ups and downs, but now with the advances in technology and mass psychology, it is accelerating. You guess what type of society we are being led to.
+59 # Michaeljohn 2014-01-05 10:38
What I'd like to know is which of the many private security contractors working for NSA have connections to Haliburton, the Koch Brothers corporate structure or any other conservative activists.
+15 # Cassandra2012 2014-01-05 16:07
So-called "conservatives" = right wing radical extremists. Let's call a spade a spade!
+4 # indian weaver 2014-01-06 08:46
Actually these people are domestic terrorists trying to destroy our country, and economy destruction is well underway for years. Supported by your mortal enemy = GOP, a radical insurgency requiring removal asap.
+34 # 22dragon 2014-01-05 11:04
As long as the majority of Americans believe that the world beyond our shores is filled with bogeymen ready and able to enter our bedrooms, steal our stuff and kill our families, we will permit anything, and so empower the Oligarchs, by our own willing not anyone elses. Too easy to blame Halliburton or Koch Brothers. They are who they are, and where they are, because we secretly admire them as victorious capitalists, who defend us against The they "Red" or "Arab". THE UNITED STATES OF PARANOIA's outrageous War Machine tells the tale.
+17 # Vardoz 2014-01-05 11:27
+24 # Billy Bob 2014-01-05 13:52
A better question would be, "What is their justification for spying on ALL of us?" Do you think Congress shouldn't be spied on if the rest of us are?

I wonder what NSA agents would think about everyone else spying on them...
+1 # indian weaver 2014-01-06 08:48
I suspect another layer is deeper within the NSA that is spying on their own employees, almost a certainty, considering ... If Snowden releases such info and documents, the shit will hit the fan, maybe? Ha ha. They can't leave, or these employees are dead meat, altho they are already rotten meat.
+12 # tedrey 2014-01-05 15:52
And why do so many Congressmen who aren't disturbed with the public being spied on suddenly get upset when it's themselves who may be spied upon?
+22 # Dale 2014-01-05 11:50
I now add this addendum to many of my emails--

Message to NSA, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and whatever other agency of the U.S. Government monitors my mail, phone, internet postings, invades my privacy, puts me on a list of subversives, and tries to interfere with my rights to free speech, peaceful protest, free association and other rights so many have fought to achieve for so long—you are a cartel of criminal organizations that violates the rights of millions in the U.S. and abroad. So far your secret renditions, torture of prisoners, drone attacks, Special Operations assassinations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity have been committed with impunity. I hope that all of you responsible will in time get your due.

Message to those on government lists. You can request NSA for your Freedom of Information Act file by going to and from the FBI by emailing When you are denied on grounds of “national security” appeal, then turn your requests over the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild so that they can do class action litigations
+14 # James Klimaski 2014-01-05 12:00
And now they can find the leakers and whistleblowers without much effort.
+28 # angelfish 2014-01-05 12:37
In my opinion, the NSA's secret spying is FAR worse than anything Snowden, Manning or Assange might have done by informing us of what has been going on in our government, even unbeknownst to Congress! Why aren't THEY under indictment? Spying on Congress seems to to me, to be a pretty BIG deal, no? Suppose there's a "mole" in the NSA? The possible scenarios are endless!
+2 # indian weaver 2014-01-06 10:45
The "moles" are the NSA / CIA undercover agents who are "moles" within the congress, not the other way around (we hope "moles" similar to Snowden are actively pursuing their employees with more purloined documents and will take those docs with them and flee - and info / eavesdropping info on these NSA criminals, their bosses will be published).
+18 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-01-05 15:13
Remember, J Edgar Hoover spied on congress to get his ever higher budgets, blackmail some, and promote his agenda through his patsies Gerald Ford and McCarthy.
+12 # Pancho 2014-01-05 15:17
Ah, yes.

"Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons."

"And therein lies the rub."
+5 # MindDoc 2014-01-05 15:24
I was thinking J. Edgar as well, Pablo...

While this was a perfect messenger and venue to ask the question and (hopefully) ignite discussion and concern, it may not be 'slam dunk' good for privacy advocacy. Given today's Congress, and who they mostly serve (hint: the 'rulers'), it might not be so easy.

I'm thinking Congress's looney-tunes and tuned-out members may interpret this as a call to legislate a 'carve out' which would exempt Congress from being "spied on", like ordinary (95th-Class) citizens now are. Result: Nobody ends up accountable to law if they happen to "serve" the people in government. Not the same law as us, anyway. Will their concern be about their own safety, or the betterment of American domestic society?

And there's the definition of 'spying', surely to be used in all the spin and reaction and trolling and polling. Definition? Applied towards whom and what? Constitutional rights, anyone?

Tis a new year. Stay tuned....
+4 # RMDC 2014-01-05 16:27
sanders should include the full text of the NSA response. I think it is a crime to lie to a member of congress and I'll bet that Keith Alexander lied.

But we are losing sight of just how isolated and controlled congress is. Following the Anthrax letters that were sent to members of contgress in 2001, all letter mail now sent to a member of congress is routed to a military base near washinton where the mail is opened, checked and then scanned. The pdf scans are sent to the member of congress electronically and the phyhsical letters aer stored at the military base. so the Pentagon has both hard and electronic copies of all letters sent to congress.

Letters that go to members of congress via email or via their websites are probably intercepted and stored in just the same way all other people's email is.

It really is pretty silly to ask a hard core criminal like Alexander if he is breaking the law. He's not going to confess. He's a sociopath. He does not ever understand what he's doing. He just is driven to do it more.
+1 # Doubter 2014-01-05 19:52
You've brought me out of the woodwork again to once more repeat: What do you expect (but this) from a General?
+2 # RMDC 2014-01-06 10:54
What do I expect. I expect Congress to shut down the NSA completely. It was never authorized by an act of congress. It was created by Truman with a secret presidential memo. It is funded secretly as part of the Pentagon's "black budget."

I expect Congress simply to enact a law shutting it down as a criminal organization. They need to hold hearings and when people like Alexander lie they need to hold him in contempt and put him in custody or jail. This will probably be a pretty long battle with the president who will defend the NSA at all costs. But it should be a battle that congress undertakes.

But it won't. Congress won't do anything that benefits the american people.

Privacy is hugely important for people. Snowden said this -- kids now are not growing up with a sense of privacy. What they are and the decisions the make are all open to the judgment and observation of others. Knowing that you are always being watched is like having the police inside your head.
+4 # Stilldreamin1 2014-01-05 18:41
I urge everyone to read The War oon Truth, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed. It's a comprehensive treatment of all documentary evidence of US US GOVERNMENT complicity in 9/11. It's a 2005 update of his earlier work - The War on Freedom. You may have seen much of the evidence before but to see it all gathered in one book is very very powerful snd persuasive. There is no possibility that the CIA and FBI knew less about the 9\11 hijackers than al Queda did.The NSA and CIA didn't start gathering intelligence on 9\12. They were pretty good at it even back then. The hijackers didn't get in a car, let alone an airplane, without surveillance. I don't know what we do with this information but I I believe it is better to know the truth. It's a dense read but a must read. And don't trust the nay sayers. Decide for yourself- The War on Truth
0 # RMDC 2014-01-06 10:49
Yes this is a good book. I've read it and keep up with Mosaddeq's work pretty much. Other people should as well. He's really smart.
+7 # ishmael 2014-01-05 19:03
The US justice system is laughable. One judge says tweedle-this, another says tweedle-that. Sigh.

The NSA, itself funded at the pleasure of the US Senate, has essentially not answered Sen Sanders' question. It is carrying on the grand tradition exemplified by Watergate in its seamy GOP-ish paranoia from the 1970's.

And US readers have to get their information from European sources??

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