U.S. Government Denies Reports That NSA Listens To Domestic Calls Without Legal Authorization

Posted: June 17, 2013 in GT
Tags: ,

Yesterday, a CNET story that alleged that the NSA
disclosed during a secret Capitol Hill briefing that its
analysts can listen to domestic phone calls “simply
based on an analyst deciding that,” got a lot of play in
the tech and political blogosphere. Today, however,
the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a statement that denounces this
story as “incorrect.” The CNET story was based on a comment by Rep.
Jerrold Nadler who, according to the reporter, was told
by the NSA that ” the contents of a phone call could
be accessed ‘simply based on an analyst deciding
that.’” If true, the idea that an analyst’s hunch was
sufficient to listen to domestic phone conversations would have been quite a bombshell. According to ODNI, “the statement that a single
analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications
without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was
not briefed to Congress.” ODNI states that members
of Congress were only briefed about the
implementations of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which ” targets
foreigners located overseas for a valid foreign
intelligence purpose.” As ODNI stated before, this regulation can’t be used
to target Americans. As many pundits have noted,
however, the scope of these programs makes it likely
that domestic calls and other communications will get
caught up in the dragnet, too. The government also
just needs a 51% confidence that the target of the surveillance is not American or a legal citizen. Previously, the U.S.’s Director of National Intelligence
James R. Clapper, also argued that the recent
revelations around the NSA’s PRISM program
contained “numerous inaccuracies” and that PRISM
couldn’t be used to mine data and ““intentionally
target any U.S. citizen, or any other U.S. person.” Since publishing the original story, CNET changed the
headline of its post from ”NSA admits listening to
U.S. phone calls without warrants” to “NSA spying
flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls” and
attributed Rep. Nadler as the source of the main
quote. The main gist of the story has remained the same.


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