The NSA isn't necessarily not spying on members of the U.S. Congress. In response to a letter from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the agency isn't offering a very clear answer.
A Friday letter to NSA Director Keith Alexander from Sanders expressed concern that the NSA's data-gathering practices were unconstitutional and asked, flat out: (VIa C-SPAN)
"Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?"
And in a statement to The Guardian, the NSA replied:
"Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress."
This isn't an explicit answer to an explicit question, but Techdirt points out the evidence is there. Members of Congress are just as susceptible to the NSA's trawling as any U.S. resident.
"We know that the NSA is gathering metadata on pretty much every phone call that is on a major mobile phone network, meaning that, yes, the NSA is collecting metadata on the phone calls of elected officials."
There's another way to look at it though — from The Washington Post's Brian Fung: "It's a relief to know that Congress doesn't get a special carve-out (they're just like us!). But the egalitarianism of it all will likely be of little comfort to Sanders."
The NSA's phone dragnet is coming under increased scrutiny, though.
A U.S. District judge ruled the program was unconstitutional in December 2013, saying it violated protections against unreasonable search. (Via Los Angeles Times)
That same month, a White House task force issued a 300-page report to President Obama, recommending changes to the program that, among other things, would transfer control of phone metadata to a private third party. (Via The New York Times)
The president is expected to address these recommendations this month. Then again, a New York judge recently ruled NSA phone surveillance legal, so the whole question could be on its way to the Supreme Court.
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