In a different show than Edward Snowden revealed, we see a more massive collection of classified domestic data.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose oversight of internal surveillance ultimately led to the exposure of Edward Snowden, is alerting citizens that the CIA is complicit in the mass collection of our private records, as is the National Security Agency ( NSA). ).
Wyden and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, requested the release of a 2021 report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). The report, released in heavily redacted form on Thursday, revealed that the CIA had its own massive data collection outside of Congressional and Court review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
This entire program is entirely separate from the NSA surveillance that Snowden exposed in 2013. The NSA then claimed that Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allowed the bulk collection of phone and internet metadata from Americans to gather information on potential terrorists. You have applied for (and received) general approval from the FISA court. In 2015, following Snowden's denunciation, Congress passed the US Freedom Act, which banned the government from collecting bulk data and imposed stricter access rules.
This CIA surveillance is governed by Executive Order 12333, first issued in 1981, and is not subject to FISA Court scrutiny. However, precautions are said to be in place to ensure that the CIA does not secretly check private data transmitted by Americans domestically. The PCLOB report explains that CIA operatives were able (intentionally or unintentionally) to collect significant amounts of national communications data as part of their collection of financial information on Islamic State operations.
And while this program is separate from what the NSA was doing, it had the same major flaw. While searching for information about terrorists, which is what the CIA should do, the agency also collected and stored vast amounts of our private data without any authority or oversight outside of the agency itself.
It has not been declassified what type of records the CIA collected, but given the comparisons and the time period, it's easy to imagine that they are likely phone and internet records. Wyden and Heinrich are asking the CIA for information about what type of records were collected and what legal framework they used to justify the collection.
"What these documents show is that many of the same concerns Americans have about their privacy and civil liberties also apply to how the CIA collects and processes information under executive branch orders and outside of FISA law," they said Wyden and Heinrich in a joint statement. "In particular, these documents reveal serious problems related to unprovoked backdoor searches of Americans, the same issue that has raised bipartisan concerns related to FISA."
The CIA, of course, has an extremely long history of policing Americans for political gain. The church committee was formed in 1975 to investigate allegations of internal surveillance by the CIA, FBI, and other federal agencies. His findings led, in part, to the creation of the FISA Court in 1978 to ensure our own government did not violate our privacy rights as Americans.