January 15, 2014

DOES THIS INSPIRE CONFIDENCE? The Hill: NSA Says It Can’t Determine If It Spied On Lawmakers.

The National Security Agency said it is lawfully unable to search its database to determine if it has swept up phone records from members of Congress or other elected officials.

NSA Director Keith Alexander said, however, nothing the agency does can be fairly described as “spying on Members of Congress” or U.S. politicians, according to a letter dated Jan. 10 and obtained by The Huffington Post.

The director said the agency could not cull its database because it can only access records that are reasonably suspected to be linked to a foreign terrorist group.

“For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without that predicate,” Alexander said.

Alexander was responding to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who sent a letter to the director earlier this month asking if the agency had spied on members of Congress. Sanders had classified the collection of metadata under an NSA program — including call times, duration and phone numbers — as spying.

Sanders’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The letter reiterated that President Obama’s review group had already concluded that there was no evidence that the agency abused the program to target “domestic political activity.”

This makes sense, but in an environment where every other government agency seems to have been twisted to partisan purposes, it becomes difficult to trust anyone.