April 30, 2019

Wyden Statement on ODNI Transparency Report: Congress Must Oppose Reauthorizing Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act Without Answers to Questions on Surveillance

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today called for answers to several outstanding questions following the release of the annual transparency report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

“The annual ODNI transparency report, while welcome, nonetheless provides a valuable window into how much the American public still doesn’t know about how sprawling surveillance authorities are being used by the federal government.

“To start, this report is silent on the status of the National Security Agency’s phone records surveillance program under Section 215. It is critical that the American people know the status of the program, especially given the upcoming congressional debate over reauthorizing it. Furthermore, the report provides an incomplete count of Section 215 collection because the Intelligence Community claims it cannot count anything it receives in hard copy of portable media. That is unacceptable. And even the incomplete count shows Section 215 collection more than doubled, which requires an explanation. Finally, there needs to be a better public description of what kinds of records are being collected.  What kinds of ‘papers, documents and other items’?  How does the Intelligence Community define ‘electronic communications transactions records’?

“The public is in the dark about how many Americans have their information swept up under Section 215. It would show flagrant disregard for the Constitution and Americans’ freedoms to reauthorize Section 215 without answers to these questions.

“Second, the report underscores my concerns that Section 702 surveillance allows significant warrantless spying on Americans’ private communications. The report shows a 28 percent increase in warrantless searches of Americans’ information, not including searches by the FBI, which the government does not count.

“Third, the administration must explain why unmasking of U.S. person identities increased by 75 percent.”