U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) issued the following statement regarding the 2009 admission by intelligence officials that they did not fully understand the entirety of the bulk phone records collection program. Wyden and Udall are both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Documents declassified last week clearly show that court orders authorizing the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records were consistently violated by the NSA. These documents also show that the government repeatedly made serious misrepresentations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when seeking authorization to conduct this bulk collection. The intelligence community’s defense was that these violations were occurring because no one had a full grasp of how the bulk collection program actually worked.
“If the assertion that ineptitude and not malice was the cause of these ongoing violations is taken at face value, it is perfectly reasonable for Congress and the American people to question whether a program that no one fully understood was an effective defense of American security at all. The fact that this program was allowed to operate this way raises serious concerns about the potential for blind spots in the NSA’s surveillance programs. It also supports our position that bulk collection ought to be ended.
“The government’s misrepresentations inevitably led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court being consistently misinformed as it made binding rulings on the meaning of U.S. surveillance law. This underscores our concern that intelligence agencies’ assessments and descriptions about particular collection programs — even significant ones — are not always accurate. It is up to Congress, the courts and the public to ask the tough questions and require intelligence officials to back their assertions up with actual evidence. It is not enough to simply defer to these officials’ conclusions without challenging them.”