The National Security Agency refuses to deny whether it is spying on members of Congress after it received a bluntly worded letter from a senator seeking clarification on the issue.
Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to the NSA on Friday, asking whether it has or is "spying" on US lawmakers and other elected officials. The Vermont independent said he was “deeply concerned” about the NSA’s bulk collection of information on Americans and called reports that the agency listens in on foreign leaders “disturbing.” On Saturday, the NSA released a statement to Sanders’ letter saying members of Congress "have the same privacy protections as all US persons." "We are reviewing Sen. Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Sen. Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties,” the statement read. Documents disclosed by former NSA contactor Edward Snowden show that the agency collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States. That program was renewed for the 36th time on Friday. Media commentators say that if the NSA treats members of Congress no differently than other Americans, then it is safe to assume that the agency is spying on their communications as well. In his letter, Sen. Sanders defined “spying” as “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or e-mails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.”