An independent investigation into the “unprecedented” amount of data the government has been harvesting and handing over to intelligence agencies, according to a senior House intelligence committee member, is being “blatantly ignored.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) on Tuesday revealed the existence of his own inquiry, which he expects to complete early next week. He said he plans to investigate the issue and demand that intelligence agencies provide him more information, and called on the White House and other branches of the federal government to follow suit, The Hill reported.
Ruppersberger noted that Congress has the authority to review intelligence collection programs, but “that is not being done.” He said the U.S. government needs to come clean with Congress about the scope of surveillance, especially in light a recent report from the Associated Press that has revealed thousands of American phone records obtained via a secret, program known as Section 702 of FISA (federal law allows authorities to collect data on Americans with probable cause of wrongdoing).
“I am deeply troubled that the White House and government agencies have no interest in telling me what we need to know, and when we should expect to find it,” Ruppersberger said.
The intelligence committee’s investigation, which would include looking into how agencies handled information shared by the National Security Agency and the FBI, “must examine whether this information sharing is necessary and appropriate,” he said.
A senior House intelligence committee aide stressed to The Hill the committee has been trying all year to get Congress to “do its job” and provide more information about surveillance, which is a crucial aspect of the committee’s oversight.
“Since we’ve launched our investigation, we have not received a single reply about our request,” according to the aid.
However, the Senate intelligence committee has been similarly hamstrung, with only a handful of lawmakers saying they’d be willing to take action.
It was revealed in December that the NSA targeted more than 700 U.S. citizens with warrants to collect data from their domestic phone records. And it also recently emerged that the FBI had given up nearly 1 billion phone records to the NSA in the past. The Associated Press has reported that even in private settings it was common for a U.S. intelligence agency director to secretly sign warrants that revealed surveillance of a particular U.S. citizen.
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Mike McFarland, CTVNews.ca Staff
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