The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.*
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."
If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.
Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler's disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.
The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii "wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president."
There are serious "constitutional problems" with this approach, said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has litigated warrantless wiretapping cases. "It epitomizes the problem of secret laws."
The NSA yesterday declined to comment to CNET. A representative said Nadler was not immediately available. (This is unrelated to last week's disclosure that the NSA is currently collecting records of the metadata of all domestic Verizon calls, but not the actual contents of the conversations.)
6-16-13 postscript: Is this story false? It was quickly debunked by several sources. Of course, everything is debunked these days and then over time it is found to be closer to the truth than imagined when the real story eventually spills. Maybe Snowden has a disclosure or two left in him, can shed some light, if he hasn't already been vaporized, that is.
I was thinking that the timing of the Google Glasses initial rollout could not be more poorly timed. Imagine, the government can now monitor everything you actually see in real time too. Keep your eyes front and center baby...
|© Robert Sommers 2013|
My friend, who shall be now officially known as Spooky, just emailed to tell me that all of his site servers were just taken down or have mysteriously crashed. Hmmm, wonder what that's about? How farfetched is it to believe that the national spy apparatus is not primed and ready to squelch domestic dissent?
Postscript - site is now back up. Somebody at Fort Meade must have sneezed.
Spooky asks the age old question, "Who is No. 1? Any real fans of the show know that it was the midget butler/doorman the whole time...