Without a warrant, the NSA, FBI, and CIA gather and search through Americans’ emails, internet calls, images, and conversations, frequently through the backdoors of America’s big computer corporations. The USA Freedom Act made it illegal to collect telephone records and internet information in bulk. Instead, Congress approved more specific measures subject to openness, declassification, and reporting requirements.
Moreover, a group of Senators released a study that focuses on a program to identify potential sources of ISIS finance with ties to Americans. According to the report, requests for the unmasking of US personal data or identities are prevalent from CIA and non-CIA components. “They find it hard to imagine that there are truly tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in this nation” involved in financial transactions to aid ISIS, says CIA Analyst Patrick Eddington.
“Deep Dive I,” a study that was almost wholly secret, raises worries about an undeclared data repository on American residents. It’s difficult to say precisely how this mass data is gathered, but it’s a fair assumption that it originates from third-party commercial marketplaces. In 2013, it was reported that the CIA was paying AT&T more than $10 million per year for phone information under a “voluntary contract.” Data brokers have sold numerous data sets to the US military, law enforcement agencies, the Internal Revenue Service, and even a National Guard unit entrusted with carrying out drone attacks. It’s a simple technique for the government to get around constitutional safeguards when obtaining information on Americans.
The Wyden-Heinrich revelations highlight the need to monitor and reform the intelligence community’s capabilities. However, such attempts between Congress and the IC are rarely cooperative and can even be confrontational. Instead of being less active in monitoring and statutory change, Congress should be more forceful. The “It’s Your Data Act,” introduced by Rep. Warren Davidson’s office, will limit third-party data gathering and sharing. The bill closes a legal gap that allows data brokers to sell personal information about Americans to law enforcement and intelligence organizations. Congress must also modernize the legislation governing commercial data broking, which operates in a largely unregulated environment.