Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is leading a group of 26 senators — 21 Democrats, four Republicans and one Independent — in demanding answers from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.The senators [Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Lee (R-UT)] have seven specific questions for Clapper:
The senators sent a letter to Clapper Friday that includes a series of questions about the scope and focus of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data authorized by the PATRIOT Act.
“We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” the senators wrote, noting that the law passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and reauthorized in 2011 includes a business-records authority “very broad in its scope.”
1) How long has the NSA used PATRIOT Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?The answers will help the senators, they say, clarify the misleading statements he's made to the Senate about the data collection programs. Note that the list of Democratic senators on that list includes leadership—Dick Durbin and Patty Murray—and a lot of folks who aren't considered wild-eyed lefties. It's a group of moderate, concerned lawmakers who take their job seriously.
2) Has the NSA used USA PATRIOT Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?
3) Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?
4) Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.
5) Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.
6) Please provide specific examples of instances in which useful intelligence was gained by reviewing phone records that could not have been obtained without the bulk collection authority, if such examples exist.
7) Please describe the employment status of all persons with conceivable access to this data, including IT professionals, and detail whether they are federal employees, civilian or military, or contractors.