WASHINGTON — Top House Republicans complained in a letter that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has still not publicized data on how many Americans are caught up in surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers wrote Tuesday it is “simply unacceptable” that the intelligence community has yet to respond to their requests for the data.
Section 702 authorizes the intelligence community to scrutinize communications of non-U.S. citizens outside the U.S. for intelligence reasons. A court order is necessary for such surveillance, and U.S. citizens who are swept up in this type of reconnaissance are required to have their identities “masked” from U.S. officials.
Section 702 is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes it before then. Intelligence officials say it is essential to their mission.
“Over the course of more than a year, both your office and the National Security Agency worked with our staff to develop a methodology that would produce this information in a timely fashion,” Goodlatte and Conyers wrote. “In our last letter, we were explicit about our expectations. You would provide us with this estimate ‘in time to inform the debate’ on the reauthorization of Section 702. Unless you communicated otherwise, we would assume that this ‘understanding of the project — which is based on multiple briefings to our staff by ODNI and NSA — is still accurate.’ We asked for an update on your progress no later than April 24, 2017.”
“We are now in receipt of your June 13 response to our letter. You write, in pertinent part, that ‘after more than a year of studying the matter, it has become clear that NSA is unable to develop an accurate and meaningful methodology’ to complete this project. Unfortunately, your response arrived several days after you announced this conclusion before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — and also several weeks after the deadline we had specified in our last letter to you.”
“As you know, our Committee has primary jurisdiction over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In the ordinary course of business, we would be troubled by your decision to ignore our request for so long, without so much as an explanation for the delay. In this particular instance, our Members are actively debating the reauthorization of Section 702. Failing to tell us that you will not deliver on this project — or even provide us with any meaningful advance notice of your testimony — is simply unacceptable.”
Conyers and Goodlatte set a new deadline for July 7.