Lawmakers Say Administration’s Lack of Candor on Surveillance Weakens Oversight
On three occasions since 2009, top Justice Department officials said the government’s ability to collect business records in terrorism cases is generally similar to that of law enforcement officials during a grand jury investigation. That comparison, some lawmakers now say, signaled to them that data was being gathered on a case-by-case basis, rather than the records of millions of Americans’ daily communications being vacuumed up in bulk.
In addition, two Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say that even in top-secret briefings, officials “significantly exaggerated” the effectiveness of at least one program that collected data on Americans’ e-mail usage.
The administration’s claims are being reexamined in light of disclosures by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, reported by The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, of broad government surveillance of Americans’ Internet and phone use authorized under secret interpretations of law.