The U.S. government is reportedly distorting the facts on the National Security Agency (NSA) targeting Americans for surveillance without a warrant, something which NSA leaker Edward Snowden affirmed in saying the NSA uses “weasel” words.
In response to a damning report published by CNET based on statements made during a closed briefing, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement essentially saying that the report was entirely false.
The briefing was an apparent attempt to deal with the recent outcry following the revelations about the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program along with related topics like the role played by tech companies and the secret interpretations of the laws at issue.
In response, the main source of the CNET story, Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), retracted his earlier statements entirely and said, “The NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant.”
Ryan Gallagher, writing for Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation and Arizona State University, contends that the statements from Nadler and the DNI’s office fail to paint an accurate picture of the true scope of the NSA’s activities.
In fact, the NSA “actually can sweep up Americans’ communications without a ‘specific warrant’ in some cases,” Gallagher writes.
Thanks to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FSA), the government just needs to get a “certification” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which outlines what the surveillance will involve and how “minimization procedures” will be implemented to avoid eavesdropping on Americans.
Still, under the certification the NSA is allowed to pick their own surveillance targets and they only have to have 51 percent certainty that the target is a foreigner.
To make matters even more ridiculous, the NSA doesn’t have to tell the court about the “facilities, places, premises, or property” under the certification.
That means that while the NSA can’t explicitly “target” a domestic phone call or email involving two people known to be in the U.S., they can “’incidentally’ sweep up Americans’ phone calls and emails—especially when one party is inside the United States and the other is overseas—while conducting FISA-authorized spying on foreigners’ communications,” according to Gallagher.
While it may be technically true that section 702 of FISA “cannot be used to target Americans anywhere in the world,” as the DNI stated, it’s only true because of the word “target.”
The NSA can’t outright “target” Americans, but “that does not change the fact that the NSA’s surveillance can and inevitably does involve the warrantless interception of Americans’ private communications,” Gallagher points out.
This fact can be seen when one considers the statement made last year “on at least one occasion” the FISA Court found that the so-called “minimization procedures” used by the government while collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
Unsurprisingly, the federal government continues to fight all attempts to uncover the details of the court’s finding.
According to Snowden, the NSA uses “domestic” as what he calls a “weasel word.”
“The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant,” Snowden said, according to the Guardian.
“They excuse this as ‘incidental’ collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications,” Snowden continued.
“Even in the event of ‘warranted’ intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a ‘real’ warrant like a Police department would have to, the ‘warrant’ is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp,” Snowden said.
Glenn Greenwald asked Snowden to clarify if the NSA has only a record of communications or the actual content.
“Both. If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything,” Snowden said. “And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.”
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.
Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]