Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2015

Corker Asks Obama for NSA Briefings

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday demanding a briefing from administration officials on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, set a Sept. 13 deadline for the briefing, in the wake of reports that the scope of the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens has been much wider than previously believed.

“I am deeply concerned, however, that [previous Congressional] briefings and declassification efforts — particularly the classified briefings provided to members of Congress — have generally been limited to simply discussing the facts underlying specific public disclosures and have not provided a fulsome accounting of the totality of surveillance activities conducted by the federal government, and in particular, by the NSA,” Corker wrote in the letter. “As a result, members of Congress regularly read new revelations on the front pages of various newspapers. Even more troubling, members of Congress are left to wonder why the prior briefings provided by the Executive Branch did not cover the material contained in these articles.”

An internal NSA audit from May 2012 revealed that the agency violated privacy rules nearly 2,800 times in a one-year period between the spring of 2011 and 2012.

Full letter from Corker to Obama follows:

August 21, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Over the past three months, numerous highly classified documents and materials relating to surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA), among other things, have been publicly disclosed by newspapers around the world. Following these disclosures, the Administration has, on occasion, provided very useful classified briefings to members of Congress and has declassified certain materials for public consumption.

I am deeply concerned, however, that these briefings and declassification efforts—particularly the classified briefings provided to members of Congress—have generally been limited to simply discussing the facts underlying specific public disclosures and have not provided a fulsome accounting of the totality of surveillance activities conducted by the federal government, and in particular, by the NSA.

As a result, members of Congress regularly read new revelations on the front pages of various newspapers. Even more troubling, members of Congress are left to wonder why the prior briefings provided by the Executive Branch did not cover the material contained in these articles.

To address this issue, I would like to respectfully request a full briefing led by the Director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, for all interested members of the Senate when the Senate returns to session in September. This briefing should discuss the totality of NSA operations, including but not limited to those that have already been discussed publicly. Specifically, this briefing should discuss all collections and activities conducted pursuant to statutory and other authorities, including but not limited to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as modified by the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, and Executive Order 12,333.

As I noted in my letter of June 6, sent when the initial disclosures in this area came to light, it is critical that the Administration come to Congress and the American people and explain whether these stories are accurate, what is being collected, what it is used for, and how the privacy and civil liberties of Americans are protected. Specifically, the Administration should explain why these collections and activities are necessary to protect national security, how the collections and activities are conducted, what the collected information is used for, how the collected information is stored, who has access to it and under what conditions, and whether and what restrictions apply to the government’s use of the collected information once it is accessed. In my view, given the scope and scale of the disclosures to date and the significant likelihood of more to come, it is now all the more important that the Administration come to Congress and provide a full accounting of the totality of these efforts.

Please provide a briefing on these matters, whether classified or otherwise, no later than Friday, September 13, 2013.

Sincerely,

Bob Corker

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