Press Releases

Statement on Newly Revealed, Lawless CIA Bulk Collection Problem

WASHINGTON — Today the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released declassified documents that reveal the CIA has been operating a bulk surveillance program for years, acquiring troves of an unknown type of information about Americans, relying in part on “the President’s inherent constitutional authority to collect foreign intelligence.” The documents were released pursuant to a request from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). The documents are identified and linked to below.

The following statement can be attributed to Sean Vitka, senior policy counsel at Demand Progress:

“Despite years of Congressional and public outcry against warrantless mass surveillance of people in the United States, the CIA has been hiding bulk spying programs, infringing on the rights of literally every American, and completely evading the the oversight of Congress and the courts. As disturbing as the CIA’s bulk surveillance of financial transactions is, the other bulk surveillance program is so secretive the CIA won’t even tell the public what kind of information it is sweeping up.

“The CIA must come clean about what it is using Executive Order 12333 for, and it should consider that two years ago, Section 215 of the Patriot Act sunset, permanently, because the government abused its powers and betrayed the public’s trust.”

The released documents relate to two “Deep Dive” reports by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). The first relates to a bulk financial surveillance program, while the CIA claims “Deep Dive II” “must remain classified in full to protect sensitive tradecraft methods and operational sources.” The documents, in particular the letter from Sens. Wyden and Heinrich, emphasize that the CIA’s bulk surveillance occurs “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.”

Sens. Wyden and Heinrich are also two of the original cosponsors of the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act, which would rein in the government’s lawless checkbook surveillance of Americans. When government agencies purchase information, they do so without Congressional or judicial oversight. That bill has the support of dozens of organizations, including Demand Progress. It is unknown at this time if the CIA is fueling this bulk surveillance by purchasing information.