An assembly 26 Republican and Democrat senators are asking for more information from the National Intelligence director, James Clapper, on the NSA’s PRISM program. These Senators are not happy with Clapper’s testimony from back in March of this year where he said that the NSA didn’t collect any data on Americans. Since that time more information was leaked that suggested otherwise, which has led many to believe that Clapper may have lied to the American people.
In a previous testimony before Congress, Senator Ron Wyden asked Clapper if the NSA collected any type of data on hundreds of millions of Americans. To Wyden’s question Clapper replied very affirmatively, “no sir.” Wyden then shortened the question and asked again if the NSA collected data, to that Clapper replied, “There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect. But not wittingly.”
In a letter sent to Clapper on Friday, June 28, 2013, 26 Senators from both major parties wrote that the American people deserve more precise answers in regards to any intelligence gathering programs run by the NSA.
The letter signed by the senators to Clapper reads in part,
It has been suggested that the privacy impact of particular methods of domestic surveillance should be weighted against the degree to which the surveillance enhances our national security. With this in mind, we are interested in hearing more details about why you believe that the bulk phone records collection program provides any unique value.
The letter also addresses the concern on the NSA’s interpretation of the PATRIOT Act.
We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law. Statements from senior officials that the PATRIOT Act authority is ‘analogous to a grand jury subpoena’ and that the NSA ‘[doesn’t]’ hold data on US citizens’ had the effect of misleading the public about how the law was being interpreted and implemented.
Clapper informed members of Congress in March of this year that the NSA did not collect any data on Americans but this of course came before the leak on the NSA’s PRISM program. PRISM, which was leaked by the former NSA contract employee Ed Snowden, revealed a very sophisticated and complex metadata mining operation that is tied directly the major data servers on the Internet, which includes all of Verizon network’s user data.
The Obama administration and numerous intelligence heads of office have defended the programs set in place and insist they are vital to U.S. security. Since the leak on PRISM, more elected officials are demanding answers from the NSA, which includes at least one quarter the U.S. Senate.