CNET: NSA can eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls, documents show
The National Security Agency has been secretly granted legal authority to operate a massive domestic eavesdropping system that vacuums up Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications, newly leaked documents show.
A pair of classified government documents (No. 1 and No. 2) signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and posted by the Guardian on Thursday show that NSA analysts are able to listen to Americans’ intercepted phone calls without asking a judge for a warrant first.
That appears to be at odds with what President Obama said earlier this week in defense of the NSA’s surveillance efforts. “I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls and the NSA cannot target your e-mails,” Obama said.
The new documents indicate, however, that NSA, CIA, and FBI analysts are granted broad access to data vacuumed up by the world’s most powerful intelligence agency — but are supposed to follow certain “targeting” and “minimization” procedures to limit the number of Americans who become individual targets of warrantless surveillance.
CNET has not verified the authenticity of the documents. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment this afternoon.
Analysts are expected to exercise “reasonable judgment” in determining which data to use, according to the documents, and “inadvertently acquired communications of or concerning a United States person may be retained no longer than five years.” The documents also refer to “content repositories” that contain records of devices’ “previous Internet activity,” and say the NSA keeps records of Americans’ “electronic communications accounts/addresses/identifiers” in an apparent effort to avoid targeting them in future eavesdropping efforts.