WASHINGTON – In a rare move, the Obama administration acknowledged Friday that the government's surveillance efforts have exceeded legal limits on at least one occasion.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence made the comment in a letter to Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden.
Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Oregon Democrat has suggested that the government may be reviewing the emails and phone calls of law-abiding Americans in the U.S. who are at the other end of communications being monitored abroad by the U.S. government.
Without specifying what the issue is, the intelligence office told Wyden that the administration has addressed any concerns and that the government's efforts in the intelligence realm undergo close scrutiny from Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The intelligence office was responding to an assertion by Wyden that on at least one occasion, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court held that an intelligence collection effort was "unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment" requirement to obtain a court warrant.
Wyden has said that he believes the government's implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008 "has sometimes circumvented the spirit of the law, and on at least one occasion" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "has reached the same conclusion."
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Wyden's statements "may convey an incomplete and potentially misleading understanding" of what is at issue, adding that "the government has remedied" the concerns.
The issue is so sensitive that Wyden's own statements initially were classified. The senator submitted them to the administration to undergo the process by which the government declassifies information. Wyden's statements were declassified, along with assurances from the intelligence office that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "has continued to approve" the collection of intelligence as reasonable under the Constitution.