WASHINGTON, DC – According to reports, the CIA has been conducting a secret surveillance program on Americans – doing so outside of the approval of Congress – for approximately two years.
The news of this broke on February 10th after a letter sent by two Democrat senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee to intelligence officials back in April of 2021 was partially declassified, where the senators were demanding more transparency regarding this CIA surveillance.
Back on April 13th of 2021, Democrat Senators Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines and CIA Director William J. Burns requesting the declassification of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board report regarding a CIA bulk information collection program that was operating seemingly in secret.
“We are writing to request an expedited declassification of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s (PCLOB’s) ‘Executive Order 12333 Central Intelligence Agency Deep Dive II.’ The review covers the CIA’s bulk [REDACTED].”
This April 2021 letter, which had numerous sections redacted, cited that the “secret nature of the CIA’s activities described in the PCLOB report raise these very concerns” when the senators referenced the likes of how lacking transparency can “undermine democratic oversight and pose risks to the long-term credibility of the Intelligence Community.”
“This history demonstrates Congress’ clear intent, expressed over many years and through multiple pieces of legislation, to limit, and in some cases, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americas’ records, as well as the public’s intense interest in and support for these legislative efforts.
“And yet, throughout this period, the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program [REDACTED]. It has done so entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection and without any of the judicial, congressional, or even executive branch oversight that comes with FISA collection.”
Apparently, this clandestine surveillance and data collection by the CIA that operates under Executive Order 12333 was initially signed back in 1981 by former President Ronald Reagan, which outlines general permissions for the intelligence community.
It’s currently unclear what sort of data was collected by the CIA or even the specifics of the program, even with the CIA having released a series of redacted recommendations about the program issued by the PCLOB.
In a joint response to the declassified, but redacted, documents being released, Senators Wyden and Heinrich noted that while “FISA gets all the attention” due to it being more publicly discussed, the CIA is ostensibly engaged in the same tactics that many Americans had about FISA.
“FISA gets all the attention because of the periodic congressional reauthorizations and the release of DOJ, ODNI, and FISA Court documents.
“But 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 the executive order and outside the FISA law. In particular, these documents reveal serious problems associated with warrantless backdoor searches of Americans, the same issue that has generated bipartisan concern in the FISA context.”