NSA Discloses the Breathtaking Scope of Its Claimed Powers, Or, Maybe Snowden Was Right!; UPDATE: Nadler Retracts/Clarifies
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 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 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.
I thought all this had the advantage of legislative oversight. So, um, why are we just hearing about this now?
That is a rhetorical question.
I thought Snowden’s claims sounded far-fetched, although I also acknowledged that I didn’t know for sure. They’re starting to sound more near-fetched, though, aren’t they?
UPDATE: Meanwhile, our hero Snowden continues to provide classified information about our alleged efforts against the Chinese to . . . the Chinese.
UPDATE x2: Looks like the interpretation of Nadler’s comments was off base. More here.