Democracy and transparency in action in the US government – sort of

“You want honest answers to what questions?”

US lawmakers are pressing the nation’s top intelligence official to estimate the number of Americans ensnared in email surveillance and other such spying on foreign targets, saying the information was needed to gauge possible reforms to the controversial programs.

Eight Democrats and six Republicans made the request to director of national intelligence James Clapper in a letter seen by Reuters on Friday, reflecting the continued bipartisan concerns over the scope of US data espionage.

“You have willingly shared information with us about the important and actionable intelligence obtained under these surveillance programs,” wrote the lawmakers, all members of the US House judiciary committee.

“Now we require your assistance in making a determination that the privacy protections in place are functioning as designed.”

They requested that Clapper provide the information about data collected under a statute, known as Section 702, by 6 May…

Intelligence officials say data about Americans are “incidentally” collected during communication with a target reasonably believed to be living overseas. Critics see it as “back-door” surveillance on Americans without a warrant…

Civil liberties groups and senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, have previously requested information on the extent of US data caught up in the foreign surveillance program.

That’s the end of the democracy and transparency part. No answer from Clapper, yet.

Here’s Obama’s answer:

The Obama administration, however, has said it cannot provide a precise answer and that any estimate would require reviewing communications in a manner that would raise privacy concerns.

3 thoughts on “Democracy and transparency in action in the US government – sort of

  1. Minitrue says:

    US News Editors Find It Increasingly Difficult To Defend First Amendment “…“Government agencies are well aware that we do not have the money to fight. More and more, their first response to our records request is, ‘Sue us if you want to get the records,’” one editor stated.
    The Associated Press reported in March {link}, “The Obama administration censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them in a record 596,095 cases, or 77 percent of all requests. That includes 250,024 times when the government said it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies, or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.”

  2. HAR says:

    “About-Face on Privacy Seen in Former National Security Officials Who Are Now in Pay of Tech Firms” “In their years as top national security officials, Michael Hayden and Michael Chertoff were fierce advocates of using spying powers to pry into intelligence data. But today, their jobs have changed, and so, apparently, have their views on privacy. Both now work with tech companies and back Apple — not the FBI. They and other prominent former officials now support Apple and the impenetrable “end-to-end encryption” during a furious national debate over the balance between privacy and security.”

  3. Name (required) says:

    “A new Oxford University study has published empirical evidence showing that government mass surveillance programs like those exposed by Edward Snowden make us significantly less likely to read about surveillance and other national security-related topics online. The study looks at Wikipedia traffic before and after Snowden’s surveillance revelations to offer some new insight into the phenomenon of “chilling effects,” which privacy advocates frequently cite as a damaging consequence of unchecked government surveillance. What it found is that traffic on “privacy-sensitive” articles dropped significantly following what author Jon Penney describes as an “exogenous shock” caused by revelations of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs and the resulting media coverage.”

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