A large group of mostly Democratic U.S. senators penned a letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper (shown in photo) asking if the NSA had created a national gun registry by keeping all electronic business transactions in a permanent database. And the NSA just might have done this, contrary to existing law.
The 26 senators stated in the June 27 letter penned by Ron Wyden's office:
We are troubled by the possibility of this bulk collection authority being applied to other categories of records. The PATRIOT Act's business records authority is very broad in its scope. It can be used to collect information on credit card purchases, pharmacy records, library records, firearm sales records, financial information, and a range of other sensitive subjects. And the bulk collection authority could potentially be used to supersede bans on maintaining gun owner databases, or laws protecting the privacy of medical records, financial records, and records of book and movie purchases.
Additionally, the letter sought to get confirmation of details regarding dubious NSA claims that surveillance helped thwart a number of terrorist attacks on the United States:
We have now heard about a few cases in which these bulk phone records provided some information that was relevant to investigators, but we would like a full explanation of whether or not the records that were actually useful could have been obtained directly from the appropriate phone companies in an equally expeditious manner using either a regular court order or an emergency authorization.
Wyden's letter also asked several questions of Clapper about the origins of the program and how sweeping the data-mining of the American public is under the NSA's programs.
It's hard to say if Wyden can reasonably expect an honest reply from Clapper. Wyden is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and was the victim of Clapper's perjury before the committee on March 12, 2013, where Clapper flatly denied the NSA was data-mining the American public:
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