Pentagon's Intel Watchdog: We Had No Idea What NSA Was Doing

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 09:51 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The Pentagon's surveillance watchdog had no clue the National Security Agency was secretly amassing phone-call data until the bulk collection program hit the headlines
— and it isn't investigating the program now, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

“From my own personal knowledge, those programs, in and of themselves, I was not personally aware,” said Anthony Thomas, the deputy Defense Department inspector general for intelligence, who has oversight on the NSA, the newspaper reported.

Thomas said that his office, for now, has deferred to the NSA's inspector general the job of looking into the spy agency's dragnet.

“If the NSA IG is looking into something and we feel that their reporting, their investigation is ongoing, we’ll wait to see what they find or what they don’t find, and that may dictate something that we may do," he said.

"In the course of a planning process, we may get a hotline [call], or we may get some complaint that may dictate an action that we may or not take."

Thomas said that if NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden had only contacted the DOD's surveillance IG hotline, "there would have been a robust look at his allegations," the newspaper reported.

The Guardian noted that Thomas's acknowledgment that he was unaware of the bulk phone data collection comes despite months of assurances that the NSA's surveillance activities are thoroughly overseen.

In an October appearance before the House Intelligence Committee, outgoing NSA director Keith Alexander talked about multi-layered oversight, the Guardian reported.

“The [director of national intelligence] has an inspector general and a general counsel that also oversees what we’re doing,” he told the committee then, the newspaper reported.

“The Department of Defense has a general counsel and an inspector general that oversees what we’re doing. And the Department of Justice, their national security division, oversees what we’re doing and works with us in the court and the White House.”

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