Senators Blast NSA for 'Secret' Interpretation of Laws

Lawmakers blasted the Obama administration for their “secret reinterpretation” of known laws, which they say has effectively “mislead” both the public and their representatives, granting the federal government broad powers to monitor and mine the world’s communications.

“We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” writes the group of 26 Senators in a letter sent Thursday.

“This and misleading statements by intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly.”

Civil liberties groups—who have issued repeated warnings regarding the Patriot Act and the changes to FISA in 2008—may or may not find the lawmakers’ surprise convincing given Congress’s role in passing both pieces of legislation.

The letter—addressed to Director of National Security, James Clapper—demands that the intelligence chief answer a series of questions on the scale and legal justification for the widespread secret spy campaign recently revealed by the Guardian via documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.