CIA Caught Running Secret Surveillance Operations to Spy on Americans

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been caught running secret surveillance operations to spy on American citizens, according to reports.

Two Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have gone public with allegations that the CIA has been conducting mass surveillance programs that “reveal serious problems associated with warrantless backdoor searches of Americans.”

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico revealed that the spying operations were revealed in newly-uncovered documents.

Wyden and Heinrich allege that the CIA’s secret program was “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 from [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection.”

“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,” Kristi Scott, the CIA’s privacy and civil liberties officer, said in a statement.

“CIA is committed to transparency consistent with our obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.”

Wyden and Heinrich issued a joint statement that reads:

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for new transparency about bulk surveillance conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, following the release of documents that revealed a secret bulk collection program and problems with how the agency searches and handles Americans’ information.

Wyden and Heinrich requested the declassification of a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on a CIA bulk collection program, in a letter sent April 13, 2021. The letter, which was declassified and made public today reveals that “the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program,” authorized under Executive Order 12333, rather than the laws passed by Congress.

The letter notes that the program was “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 from [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection.”

“FISA gets all the attention because of the periodic congressional reauthorizations and the release of DOJ, ODNI and FISA Court documents,” said Senators Wyden and Heinrich in response to the newly declassified 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 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.”

Wyden and Heinrich called for more transparency from the CIA, including what kind of records were collected and the legal framework for the collection. The PCLOB report noted problems with CIA’s handling and searching of Americans’ information under the program.

“While we appreciate the release of the ‘Recommendations from PCLOB Staff’ which highlights problems associated with the handling of Americans’ information, our letter also stressed that the public deserves to know more about the collection of this information.  The DNI and the CIA Director have started this process.  We intend to continue to urge them to achieve the transparency the American people deserve.”

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By David Hawkins

David Hawkins is a writer who specializes in political commentary and world affairs. He's been writing professionally since 2014.

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