- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2016

Four dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives are demandeding answers from the Obama administration over reports suggesting that Yahoo scanned the emails of millions of its customers on behalf of the federal government.

In a letter Friday to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, a bipartisan group of 48 lawmakers asked to be briefed on an apparent surveillance program at the center of recent news reports.

On Oct. 4 Reuters reported that Yahoo secretly deployed custom software in 2015 that enabled it to search incoming messages as they arrived in the inboxes of hundreds of million of Yahoo Mail accounts.

The New York Times later reported that the software made use of an already existing program designed to keep accounts free from spam and child porn, and was modified to search for emails containing a digital “signature” tied to a known terrorist group after Yahoo received an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

As questions linger about the legal authority used to compel Yahoo’s assistance, Reps. Justin Amash, Michigan Republican, and Ted Lieu, California Democrat, asked the intelligence community Friday to provide answers to Congress.

“There is significant confusion regarding the existence and nature of the program described by these reports and the legal questions implicated by the accuracy of specific details,” they wrote. “As legislators, it is our responsibility to have accurate information about the intelligence activities conducted by the federal government. Accordingly, we request information and a briefing as soon as possible for all members of Congress to resolve the issues raised by these reports.”

The letter is co-signed by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, including Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, as well as Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Barbara Lee and Jared Polis — all California Democrats.

“Members of Congress have a responsibility to oversee surveillance practices and ensure that all activities comply with the Constitution and federal law,” Mr. Amash said in a statement. “Our number one job is protecting the rights of the people.”

“We’re glad that this is a bipartisan effort, and look forward to answers from the admin,” his office said in a Twitter post Friday.

Mr. Lieu previously had complained that Reuters’ report revealed a program that resembled “big brother on steroids.”

“If true, the government’s directive to Yahoo to write a software program and search all of its customers’ incoming emails for certain content is a gross abuse of federal power,” he said earlier this month. “Private sector companies and private citizens are not an arm of law enforcement or an extension of our intelligence agencies.”

Members of both the Senate and House intelligence committees were informed about the surveillance request when it was issued in 2015, but awareness of its existence was likely limited beyond membership of either panel, Reuters reported last week.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide