Politics

An Open Letter to My Favorite Senator: Backdoored Mass Surveillance Continues

David Lee, Flickr
Written by Vera Wilde

Dear Dianne:

Thank you for your letter of September 18, 2015, responding to my many emails asking for your help getting Congress to addressing growing national security threats from security programs about which the CIA lied to Congress. A lot. As you know, I’m traveling the world making art after experiencing illegal retaliation for writing about my research. Hope fall is looking good on your side of the pond.

I’m grateful for your work as Vice Chairperson of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, former Chairperson, and force behind the Senate Intelligence Committee Study on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. But I’m surprised by the misstatements in your letter. We seem to be working from different sets of facts, and I’m hoping you can help me learn more so that I can make sense of what’s going on in my country.

You say “that the NSA does not conduct mass surveillance on U.S. citizens. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in order to target the contents of a U.S. person’s electronic communications, the government must demonstrate that the individual is involved in international terrorism and obtain a court order.”

But former Department of Justice lawyer John Loftus says that when the DoJ was helping draft FISA, they put in a backdoor. By inserting U.S.-specific language, the DoJ knowingly enabled the U.S. intelligence community to continue — by proxy — mass domestic surveillance in the face of public outcry after Watergate and the Church Committee hearings. So it seems U.S. and U.K. intelligence have a “special friendship” indeed.

Did the NSA lie to you about this program, or are you lying to me and the American people?

You also say you “support measures to improve oversight of U.S. intelligence programs and to make them more transparent to the public.” You point to the June 2, 2015 USA FREEDOM Act as proof of this support. You say FREEDOM “contains significant reforms to address privacy concerns, especially those associated with the business records provision, or Section 215. Most notably, the bill ends the bulk collection of records by the National Security Agency under Section 215 authority and instead leaves these records at the telephone companies, who already generate these records for business purposes. Rather than receiving these records in bulk, NSA must now obtain a court order for a specific selection term, such as a phone number, in order to receive records affiliated with that term. Additionally, the bill also calls for an amicus curiae to be appointed to aid the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with Section 215 applications and adds several important reporting provisions to increase transparency regarding how often the provision is applied.”

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But these reforms are all moot if the U.S. is exchanging mass surveillance services with another intelligence service.

I understand you have been one of our country’s strongest voices speaking out for truth in the face of lies, justice in response to injustice, and reconciliation in the wake of brutality. As an American citizen, I will continue to ask why Congress does not effectively check the power of the Executive branch and federal agencies when they violate the law. Please know that I take seriously my responsibility to ensure that my country is the safest and most just country it can be. Not just for some citizens, but for all.

Feeling that my government hears my views on U.S. national security is important to me. Again, thank you for responding to my emails. Please take me to Church.

Sincerely yours,
Vera Wilde
American

Senator Feinstein’s 09-18-15 letter:

Dear Vera:

Thank you for your letter expressing your support for reforming National Security Agency (NSA) programs. I appreciate your engagement in the ongoing debate about U.S. intelligence programs, and welcome the opportunity to provide my perspective.

First, please know that the NSA does not conduct mass surveillance on U.S. citizens. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in order to target the contents of a U.S. person's electronic communications, the government must demonstrate that the individual is involved in international terrorism and obtain a court order. For your convenience, an explanation of NSA programs authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is available on the agency's website:
http://tinyurl.com/NSA-FISA

I support measures to improve oversight of U.S. intelligence programs and to make them more transparent to the public. As you may know, on June 2, 2015, Congress passed, with strong bi-partisan support, the USA FREEDOM Act. This bill extends and reforms three provisions previously authorized by the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, including the "roving wiretaps," "lone wolf," and "business records" provisions. It is important to note that all three of these authorities can only be used after being approved by a federal judge.

The USA FREEDOM Act contains significant reforms to address privacy concerns, especially those associated with the business records provision, or Section 215. Most notably, the bill ends the bulk collection of records by the National Security Agency under Section 215 authority and instead leaves these records at the telephone companies, who already generate these records for business purposes. Rather than receiving these records in bulk, NSA must now obtain a court order for a specific selection term, such as a phone number, in order to receive records affiliated with that term. Additionally, the bill also calls for an amicus curiae to be appointed to aid the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with Section 215 applications and adds several important reporting provisions to increase transparency regarding how often the provision is applied.

I understand your concerns that these authorities may be misused. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I will continue to vigorously pursue oversight over these programs and the agencies that manage them to verify that these programs are conducted legally and with the proper privacy safeguards. Please know that I take seriously my responsibility to ensure that national security programs honor the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

Hearing your views on U.S. national security is important to me, and I will be mindful of your concerns should Congress consider legislation to reform NSA programs. Again, thank you for writing. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the nation are available at my website, feinstein.senate.gov. And please visit my YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for more ways to communicate with me.

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About the author

Vera Wilde

Reformed Harvard Kennedy Fellow, wondering artist, wandering artist. www.wildethinks.com

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An Open Letter to My Favorite Senator: Backdoored Mass Surveillance Continues

by Vera Wilde
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