A surveillance report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last week came under heavy fire Monday from two Senators who said the disclosures lack the transparency promised by President Barack Obama last year after Americans learned of the government’s questionable surveillance tactics.
The report revealed that tens of thousands of people were targeted last year by U.S. surveillance orders. The government acknowledged spying on the communications of up to 90,000 foreign targets, including individuals and organizations.
The report also detailed the FBI issuance of an additional 19,000 national security letters containing about 39,000 warrantless requests for communications information in 2013.
Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) say, however, that what the ODNI left out of the report is more important than what was included.
“The administration’s report is a far cry from the kind of transparency that the American people demand and deserve,” Franken declared in a statement Monday.
The legislative duo has noted that the National Security Agency used 423 “selectors” to sift through telecommunications databases; 248 of those selectors pertained to targets in the U.S.
The National Security Agency scours the telecommunications databases under the authority of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but the ODNI report failed to include any information about how the Nation’s intelligence agencies interpret that authority with regard to U.S. citizens.
“I recognize that this report is being offered in good faith. But it still leaves Americans in the dark,” Franken said.
“It doesn’t tell the American people enough about what information is being gathered about them and how it’s being used.”
The report also provided little information about the relationship between American intelligence agencies and private telecommunications firms, many of which are legally bound to remain mum about the information they provide the government.
“The American people deserve greater transparency and American companies should be able to disclose more information when it comes to privacy rights and the federal government’s surveillance activities,” Heller said.
The two lawmakers have introduced the “Surveillance Transparency Act” last year in an effort to force disclosure of the very sort of information left out of the ODNI report ordered by Obama. Some provisions of that bill were also incorporated in and later dropped from the USA Freedom Act, which has been largely watered-down throughout the legislative process.