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Wyden Siren: Coats Is Answering A Different Question About Surveillance Of US Persons

Remember, folks, when Senator Ron Wyden asks certain questions or suggests something nefarious is going on behind the scenes, you'd best listen. Time and time again over the past six years or so, whenever he's brought up such an issue, he's been right. Some on Twitter have now dubbed this the Wyden Siren. Pay attention when Wyden is hinting at something. So... it's time to pay attention. On Thursday, Wyden sent a letter to Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, complaining that he is answering a different question than the one Wyden asked. This is, of course, a fairly typical move in political circles, but especially in the intelligence community. You word answers in very tricky ways, such that you know the public will be misled, but if pressed in the future, you can argue that your answer was not untruthful -- just semantically misleading in the extreme.

This case goes back to Wyden questioning Coats on June 7th about whether Section 702 can be used to collect purely domestic communications. There were already some people screaming "Wyden Siren" on Twitter about the question, even to the point of arguing that the question was setting up Coats the way that James Clapper was setup a few years back (in which he lied about NSA surveillance on Americans). Coats stated that such a thing would be against the law -- leading Marcy Wheeler to point out not only that the statement is incorrect, but that Coats signed a memo saying it's incorrect.

After the hearing, as Wyden's new letter to Coats points out, Coats gave Wyden an answer. But, as Wyden now points out, it was an answer to a different question:

Dear Director Coats:

At the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's open hearing on June 7, 2017, I asked you the following question and requested a yes or no response: "Can the government use FISA Act Section 702 to collect communications it knows are entirely domestic." You responded: "Not to my knowledge. It would be against the law." After the hearing, in response to questions from reporters, the ODNI sent the following:

"Section 702(b)(4) plainly states we 'may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.' The DNI interpreted Senator Wyden's question to ask about this provision and answered accordingly.

That was not my question. Please provide a public response to my question, as asked at the June 7, 2017, hearing.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely, Ron Wyden

Pay attention, folks. The Wyden Siren is blaring... and that usually means more awful surveillance revelations will be coming soon...

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