Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinger Neil Young says that America's presidents haven't done enough address climate change New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide MORE (I-Vt.) asked the head of the National Security Agency on Friday, if the agency spies on members of Congress.

“I am writing today to ask you one very simple question. Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?” Sanders wrote in a letter to NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander.

“Spying,” Sanders clarified, could entail gathering metadata on calls made from lawmakers’ official or personal phones, content from websites lawmakers visited or emails they sent, or collecting data unavailable to the public from a third party.


Sanders is one of a few members of Congress who have introduced measures that would impose strict limits on the NSA’s activities. He has sought to limit NSA surveillance, and to place restrictions on what the NSA and FBI can do in terms of collecting data and tracking phone conversations among Americans.

The White House in January is expected to announce reforms to the surveillance programs. President Obama is working on a speech that would address the issue. 

In his letter, Sanders said he has been “deeply concerned” by the NSA’s data collection of Americans’ communications. He also called reports about the United States spying on foreign governments and citizens “disturbing.”

Former government contractor Edward Snowden first revealed the NSA programs, which have been used to collect data and monitor phone conversations and email traffic.

Snowden is wanted for espionage and is now living in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum.

Sanders said that while the U.S. must work to prevent terrorist attacks, the government cannot go too far.

“We must be vigilant and aggressive in protecting the American people from the very real danger of terrorist attacks,” Sanders wrote in the letter but added the government can do that “without undermining the constitutional rights that make us a free country.”