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On Saturday, CNET reported that the NSA acknowledged that it does not need a warrant to listen to domestic phone calls and, according to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the agency can access a phone call based solely on an analyst’s decision.
“I was rather startled,” Nadler said, when he learned that the NSA does not need a warrant to access a telephone call.
CNET said the revelation indicates the “Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.”
Declan McCullagh implied that email, text messages and instant messages could also be accessed by NSA analysts, as the legal standards that apply to telephone conversations also applies to Internet communication.
Conservative blogger Steven H. Ahle saw a political angle to the revelation.
“It would be a piece of cake for liberals to plant their people into the NSA program to monitor conservatives, lawmakers, and those who donate money in support of them,” he wrote. “After what we have learned from the IRS scandal, I’d say it was more likely than merely possible.”
“Consider this,” he added. “You decide to run for state senate. Your democratic opponent may have access to all of your personal calls, emails and texts. And that goes for any other office, up to and including the presidency.”
McCullagh said the disclosure appears to confirm at least some of the allegations made by leaker Edward Snowden.
According to Snowden, he could “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”
The liberal site Mother Jones suggested Nadler could have been “confusing the ability of an analyst to get subscriber information for a phone number with the ability to listen to the call itself.” But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., acknowledged this week that NSA analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”
Tim Clemente, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent, told CNN the bureau can access records of previously made telephone calls.
“All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not,” he said. “Welcome to America.”