Years after promising that it would stop spying on Americans, the country's intelligence agency is accused of running a secret programme that is undermining the country's democracy.
Newly declassified documents reveal that the CIA has a secret undisclosed surveillance program that captures Americans' private information.
In an open letter, US senators alleged the CIA had long hidden details about the program from the public and Congress.
Democratic party senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said that the CIA's secret interpretation of the law "undermine democratic oversight and pose risks" to the country.
Responding to the revelations, the American Civil Liberties Union said that "these reports raise serious questions about what information of ours the CIA is vacuuming up in bulk and how the agency exploits that information to spy on Americans. This invasion of our privacy must stop."
The letter notes that the program was "entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection, and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight that comes from [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection."
The US senators called for more details about the program to be declassified. Large parts of the letter, which was sent in April 2021 and were declassified on Thursday, and documents released by the CIA were blacked out.
Y’all telling me the spies were spying? I am shaken and bewildered https://t.co/oh6OUmWaay— Vinny Thomas (@vinn_ayy) February 11, 2022
"Rogue agencies like the NSA, FBI, and CIA are a more serious threat to liberty in America than the enemies they claim to protect us from," said a former US congressman following the revelations.
Edward Snowden, the former intelligence consultant who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, has long raised concerns that US intelligence agencies violate Americans' civil liberties by collecting their data with little oversight.
The CIA and the NSA have a foreign mission and are generally barred from investigating Americans domestically.
Snowden revealed the NSA had access to bulk data through US internet providers and hundreds of millions of call records from telecommunications providers of US citizens. Those revelations sparked worldwide outrage.
US journalist Glenn Greenwald said following the latest revelations that "the CIA is a criminal organization. Their interference in US politics is particularly pernicious."
The CIA is a criminal organization. Their interference in US politics is particularly pernicious.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 11, 2022
Maybe news outlets should stop hiring all of the people who run this agency to help "analyze" and report the news? Maybe journalists should be skeptical of their planted stories? https://t.co/9Xmqmth3FT
Another critic of the CIA surveillance programme noted that the agency "is a threat to our civil liberties."
The CIA is a threat to our civil liberties. https://t.co/8dt5g4NlkO— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) February 11, 2022
US law enforcement agencies have for decades been accused of operating illegally to spy on citizens.
In the 1960s, the FBI spied on the US civil rights movement and secretly recorded the conversations of Dr Martin Luther King.
In what was called Operation Chaos, the CIA investigated whether the movement opposing the Vietnam War had links to foreign countries in a bid to undermine the movement.
On its website, the American Civil Liberties Union says, "The history of the CIA's abuse of power and the continuing lack of public accountability over CIA operations" concerns the civil liberties of the country at large.
For years after the September 11th attacks, the CIA was directly involved in helping the New York Police Department to engage in intelligence activities targeting innocent Muslim communities.