Press Releases

Organizations Urge Restrictions on Executive Branch Surveillance of Congress

Greater Oversight and Protections Needed to Ensure Congressional Independence

January 14, 2016
Press contact: Mark Stanley, 202.681.7582
Email: [email protected]

Washington, DC — Today, fourteen organizations sent a letter to House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings requesting greater inquiry into and protections against Executive Branch surveillance of Members of Congress. The letter follows recent reports that NSA surveillance of Israeli officials included conversations of U.S. lawmakers.

Chairman Chaffetz has requested additional information to determine whether the Executive Branch overstepped its role through intentional or “incidental” collection of communications involving Congress. The Chairman also requested a private January 15 briefing on the matter.

The letter urges the committee to conduct a broader and deeper inquiry, calling for public hearings on the interception of communications regarding Congress, the courts, and independent government agencies. The letter also calls for legislation to limit the collection of such communications.

“Congressional independence is vital to a healthy democracy. In order to protect this independence, we must have confidence the NSA and the Executive Branch are not engaging in surveillance of Congress,” said Demand Progress Policy Director Daniel Schuman. “We urge Chairman Chaffetz to use this opportunity to ensure proper oversight exists and the right safeguards are in place to prevent the interception of our elected officials’ communications — nothing less than our government’s system of separate powers, guaranteed by the Constitution, is at stake.”

Read the full letter here.

Signatories include:

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Library Association
  • Demand Progress
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • FreedomWorks
  • Government Accountability Project
  • National Security Archive
  • National Security Counselors
  • Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
  • R Street Institute
  • Restore The Fourth, Inc.
  • X-Lab