After Senator Bernie Sanders asked the NSA whether it spied on members of congress, the NSA responded:
NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.
In other words: yes, we spy on members of Congress, just like all other Americans.
For contrast, here’s what NSA would have said if it wasn’t spying on Congress:
The Constitution provides for a separation of powers between the executive branch – which includes the NSA and its parent agency, the Department of Defense – on the one hand, and the legislative branch (i.e. Congress), on the other hand.
So the NSA is constitutionally prohibited from spying on members of Congress or their staff, and we go to great lengths to ensure that we faithfully discharge that constitutional duty.
So the answer is: no. We do not and never would spy on Congress.
Yeah, they didn’t say that at all. Instead, NSA lumped Congress members in with the great unwashed masses of the American public who they spy on every day.
The Washington Post writes:
The answer is telling. We already know that the NSA collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States. That program was renewed for the 36th time on Friday. If members of Congress are treated no differently than other Americans, then the NSA likely keeps tabs on every call they make as well.
It’s a relief to know that Congress doesn’t get a special carve-out (they’re just like us!). But the egalitarianism of it all will likely be of little comfort to Sanders.”