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Bipartisan House Coalition Presses Clapper for Information on Phone & Email Surveillance

Dec 16, 2016

Washington, DC – Today, a bipartisan group of ten members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee—including Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and former Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), wrote to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to memorialize the Director’s commitment to provide a detailed look at how the government’s phone and email surveillance affects United States citizens.  The intelligence community has promised to provide a public estimate of that impact “early enough to inform the debate” on surveillance reform in the next Congress, with a target date of January 2017.

The letter was signed by Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA) and David N. Cicilline (D-RI).

The text of the letter is available here and below:

Honorable James R. Clapper

Director, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Washington, DC 20511

Dear Director Clapper:

As you know, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2017.  In the past, each of us has expressed concern that Section 702 surveillance programs may not adequately protect the privacy or civil liberties of United States persons.

On April 22, 2016, we wrote to ask that you provide us with a public estimate of the number of communications or transactions involving United States persons that may be captured by Section 702 surveillance on an annual basis.

Since that letter, your office and the National Security Agency have briefed our staff about the manner in which you might comply with this request.  We understand that you have provided additional, classified briefings to the staff of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

We write today to memorialize our understanding of this project at this time:

  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency will provide us with the information we have requested “early enough to inform the debate” about reauthorization in the next Congress, with a target date of January 2017.

  • The information will be in a form that can be shared with the public.

  • Any estimates will be presented in real numbers—not merely percentages.

  • As ODNI and NSA survey these collections, they may encounter information from individuals about whom there is insufficient information to know whether they are Americans or located inside the United States.  The number of these individuals will be included in any reporting as well.

  • ODNI and NSA will provide us with an explanation of the methodology chosen to conduct this survey of Section 702 programs.

  • Although we recognize that you may provide us with additional details about this project in a classified setting, ODNI and NSA will make a description of the methodology available to the public.

  • In earlier conversations, our staff has conveyed to you the methodologies we would find acceptable.  If a materially different approach is chosen, ODNI and NSA will brief us on this matter as soon as possible.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.  The timely production of this information is incredibly important to informed debate on Section 702 in the next Congress—and, without it, even those of us inclined to support reauthorization would have reason for concern.

We look forward to working with your office in the year to come.

114th Congress