The dramatic disclosure earlier this year that the Obama administration sought to unmask ex-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s conversations intercepted overseas is reviving a long-unanswered question: Do U.S. spy agencies also monitor members of Congress?
That question has lingered at least since May 2017, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) demanded to know whether his conversations overseas while running for president in 2016 were unmasked by the Obama administration.
Now, the question has been renewed by the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability (PPSA), a non-profit where former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) works as a senior adviser.
The group in February filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding that the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) release information related to whether U.S. intelligence has been surveilling past and current U.S. senators and House members.
Specifically, the group asked ODNI whether the spy agencies it supervises unmasked the identities of current and past lawmakers known to have been caught up in foreign surveillance, and whether the names of these members were searched through what is known as the “upstream” phone database. The request covered a bipartisan group of 48 current and former lawmakers and their potential surveillance from Jan. 1, 2008 to Jan. 15, 2020.
ODNI’s response only added to the intrigue: The agency summarily denied the FOIA with what is known as a “Glomar response,” saying confirming or denying such surveillance “could reveal sources and methods information.”
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