Lawmakers Press Intelligence Director on Surveillance Data

Congress is again calling on the National Security Agency to release information gathered on Americans during surveillance sweeps.

Lawmakers want more transparency about how intelligence agencies use and share communications to, from and about Americans.  Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, again sent a letter to national intelligence director Dan Coats requesting the information.

“We're not asking the government to process and use it, but find some way, maybe by looking email addresses or area codes on phone numbers to make an educated guess about how many of us are in there,” says Michelle Richardson at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Richardson says the first request for information was made five years ago.

“The Obama administration promised to have it done by the end of 2016,” she says.  “They admitted it would have to be an educated guess and there would be some caveats on how they came to the number, however, after the election that deadline seemed to disappear.”

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act expires at the end of the year.  Lawmakers argue they need the information to decide whether or not to reauthorize it.

“Is it collecting more than it needs?  Is it sweeping in too broad of information so that Americans are ending up in there?  What are the consequences for us?” asks Richardson.  “We know that is sometimes ends up in criminal prosecutions, and there are a lot of questions about whether its also used any other way.”

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