No,The NSA Didn't Admit To Spying On Americans Without A Warrant

In November of 2012, CNET reported that the government would be able to read through your e-mails without a warrant.  Admittedly, I blogged about it.  However, the story turned out to be false. As Kashmir Hill at Forbes reported on November 20, 2012, “The version of the bill that Declan McCullagh [of CNET] excerpts in his report appears to be one of many that have been drafted and passed around, but is not a version that would be considered seriously at a hearing to review the bill next week.’Senator Leahy does not support broad carve outs for warrantless searches of email content,’ says a Senate Judiciary aide. ‘He remains committed to upholding privacy laws and updating the outdated Electronic Privacy Communications Act.”


In all, the story was debunked.  Granted, the NSA was tracking the internet and phone activity of Americans, but it was authorized by a secret warrant issued by the FISA court.  A court that rarely, if ever, turns down a request for covert surveillance. Now, CNET is back. And they’ve dropped another whopper on June 15 claiming that the NSA was listening to Americans’ phone conversations without warrants.

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls, a participant said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday 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.


Well, that’s exactly not true. Buzzfeed reported on June 15 that Congressman Nadler basically retracted the claim of warrantless phone surveillance.

Update Rep. Nadler in a statement to BuzzFeed says: “I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant.”

Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades was skeptical from the beginning.


As a result, CNET’s Declan McCullagh, who reported on this development and the Sen. Leahy story, issued this update.

Updated 6/16 at 11:15 a.m. PT The original headline when the story was published on Saturday was “NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants,” which was changed to “NSA spying flap extends to contents of U.S. phone calls,” to better match the story. The first paragraph was changed to add attribution to Rep. Nadler. Also added was an additional statement that the congressman’s aide sent this morning, an excerpt from a Washington Post story on NSA phone call content surveillance that appeared Saturday, and remarks that Rep. Rogers made on CNN this morning.]


Yet, the Nadler claim is still in the lead paragraph.

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