Wyden: NSA Must Answer Whether it is Buying Americans’ Location Data and Web Browsing Records Before New Director Is Confirmed
Wyden Places Hold on Nomination of Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh Until NSA Answers Basic Questions About Purchases of Americans’ Data
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced he will place a hold on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh to serve as director of the National Security Agency (NSA) until the NSA discloses whether it is buying Americans’ location data and web browsing records.
In a statement placed in the Congressional record this afternoon, Wyden said the Defense Department has refused to make public important information about purchases of Americans’ personal data — information that the government has already acknowledged is not classified.
“The American people have a right to know whether the NSA is conducting warrantless domestic surveillance of Americans in a manner that circumvents the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” he said, in a statement placed in the Congressional Record. “Particularly as Congress is currently debating extending Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Congress must be able to have an informed public debate about the scope of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans.”
Wyden is the longest-serving member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a staunch advocate for protecting the security of Americans without sacrificing their Constitutional rights. He first asked for information about DOD data purchases to be released in 2021, but the department refused to release it, even though the answer is not classified.
Wyden did not raise objections to Lt. Gen. Haugh’s qualifications in his hold statement. A hold is a Senate procedure that prevents shortcuts to speed up consideration of a nominee. It can be overcome by a procedural vote.
The full statement for the Congressional Record is below:
Mr. WYDEN. Madam President, I must regretfully object to the promotion of Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh to the grade of general, and consequently, to be the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.
In January of 2021, I made public an unclassified memo I received from the Defense Intelligence Agency revealing that it was purchasing, retaining, and using location data revealing the movements of Americans. After receiving that information, I pressed the Department of Defense to identify which other agencies within the Department are buying Americans’ personal data, including location data and web browsing records.
The Department provided me with that information in March of 2021, but marked the information “Controlled Unclassified Information” (CUI) — a made-up designation with no basis in law. The Administration is abusing the C-U-I designation to keep this unclassified information from the American public. In May of 2021, I wrote to Secretary of Defense Austin to urge him to remove the restrictions on that information, so that the American people can be told which agencies are buying their information without court oversight, and so that Congress can conduct appropriate oversight. In August of 2021, I received a response letter from the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, declining to clear the information for public release.
In connection with Lt. Gen. Haugh’s pending promotion to lead the NSA, I narrowed my request. I asked that the American people simply be provided yes or no answers as to whether the NSA is buying their location data and web browsing records. Unfortunately, intelligence officials have been unwilling to release even that basic information.
The American people have a right to know whether the NSA is conducting warrantless domestic surveillance of Americans in a manner that circumvents the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Particularly as Congress is currently debating extending Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Congress must be able to have an informed public debate about the scope of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans.
Until the NSA publicly releases the information described above, I must object to the Senate proceeding with the Haugh nomination.
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