Does NSA spy on members of Congress?

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On January 3, US Senator Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to the NSA which essentially asked if the NSA is spying on or did spy on members of the United States Congress. The National Security Agency (NSA) has now released a statement in response to the query, and they neither confirm or deny spying on Congress.

Essentially the NSA’s response was along the lines of Senators are citizens too, and therefore subject to the same monitoring as everyone else. “NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons” the statement said. “Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.”

They also added that they “are reviewing Senator Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.”

NSA’s response is quite interesting. On one hand, they are right: Congress may make the law but Representatives and Senators are not above the law (ignoring the fact that they can’t be arrested when they are going back and forth to their job). So why should they be treated any differently than ordinary US citizens? On the other hand, they are Congress — elected by the people to represent them in the government. Shouldn’t they be treated with a bit more respect than the average Joe? (Don’t respond to that, it is rhetorical.)

I have a feeling we won’t find a solid answer on this one. Let’s all just continue to bash the NSA.

[via The Guardian]

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6 comments

  1. Mike S.

    @Jeff–

    “Shouldn’t they be treated with a bit more respect than the average Joe?”

    In fact, no–unless Congress sees and feels what is happening to the “ordinary” citizen, the reality just doesn’t seem to get through, at times, for some people. It’s not, necessarily, the fact of being a Congressperson–it’s the very human, proverbial “standing in someone else’s shoes” situation.

  2. Machar

    It’s entirely right that the NSA should spy on Congress. And everyone else. Has Hollywood taught you nothing, USA? The villain is nearly always a corrupt politician of some sort, crafting his (and occasionally her) cunning machinations against the state under cover of being dedicated to The People.

    Of course, on the odd occasion that the villain isn’t a politician s/he is a senior member of some internal US spy network, intent on taking power and creating a police state. But I’m sure the current holders of such positions are entirely innocent of any evil or self-serving thoughts. Almost certainly. Probably.

    So, the lesson here is to place all your trust in unelected people with enormous power but no public presence. Believe in Hollywood, believe whatever you WANT to believe. It may come true! ;)

    PS. Don’t forget to click your heels together three times and say “There’s no place like the USA”!

  3. etim

    Serves ‘em right.
    Congress shouldn’t be able to exempt themselves from laws they pass regarding the rest of us. Their constant doing so is IMO criminal and should not be tolerated.
    Needless to say, their actions and foolishness in general would get them promptly fired from any real jobs.

  4. Ed

    If members of the NSA spy on their own family members there are no limits on who they will spy on.

    I am not a real religious person, but in the book of Revelations they speak about the “beast”, I truly believe that is can be it.

    There is nothing sacred anymore and one can no longer do anything without certain parties knowing about it. Sleep tight Mr. and Mrs. America.