Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA Report Shows 'Inadequate Oversight' of Searches

Monday, 30 Jun 2014 05:16 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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The Office of the Director National Intelligence has released data on the scope of its foreign intelligence-gathering efforts, but a senior senator says the so-called transparency report only raises additional questions.

"The findings transmitted to me raise questions about whether the FBI is exercising any internal controls over the use of back-door searches, including who and how many government employees can access the personal data of individual Americans," Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who initially requested disclosure of the data, said in a statement.

In 2013, President Barack Obama ordered the declassification of as much information as possible about certain sensitive surveillance programs.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the National Security Agency to intercept without individualized warrants the communications of foreigners thought to be located overseas for foreign intelligence purposes.

Wyden said the fact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducts a substantial number of searches but cannot say how many "shows how flawed this system is and the consequences of inadequate oversight."

In his statement,  released Monday, Wyden said that "even if U.S. communications make up a small fraction of that total, the number of U.S. communications being collected is potentially quite large."

The release of the transparency report came June 27, a week after the House of Representatives voted 293-123 in support of a measure that would prohibit warrantless searches of government databases for information on American citizens, known as "back-door searches."

The measure was passed as an amendment to the 2015 Defense Appropriations bill, The Hill reported.

In addition, the report disclosed that FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also review NSA content databases for information beyond phone communications.

The NSA conducted about 9,500 searches of associated "metadata" using individuals' "identifiers" such as phone numbers or email addresses in 2013.

In a letter to Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Deirdre Walsh, the DNI's Director of Legislative Affairs, wrote, "NSA does not track the number of content queries made."

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