In response to an inquiry made by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the National Security Agency argued that it could not fully reveal whether the spy agency collects information on members of Congress because doing so would violate the law.
However, the response sent to Sanders by NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, obtained by the Huffington Post, suggests that none of the NSA’s activities can “fairly be characterized as ‘spying on Members of Congress or American elected officials.'”
That’s as far as Alexander went because, according to him, revealing more information would mean violating the civilian protections of the surveillance program, the report states.
“Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups. For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without the predicate,” the letter adds.
Read the full letter via the Huffington Post:
The NSA has long maintained that collecting all Americans’ metadata on phone calls is not actually “spying.”
“Alexander doesn’t actually say so in his letter, but it’s very possible that the NSA collects data on members of Congress just as it does on everyone else, in bulk,” HuffPost notes.