The Senate Intelligence Committee at work
Another top-secret document release from the Snowden cache reveals a loophole
that allows for warrantless searches for U.S. citizens' emails and phone calls.
The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans' communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian the NSA's authorities provide loopholes that allow "warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans".
The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.[...]
The foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court issues approvals annually authorizing such operations, with specific rules on who can be targeted and what measures must be taken to minimize any details "inadvertently" collected on US persons.
Secret minimization procedures dating from 2009, published in June by the Guardian, revealed that the NSA could make use of any "inadvertently acquired" information on US persons under a defined range of circumstances, including if they held usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity.
At that stage, however, the rules did not appear to allow for searches of collected data relating to specific US persons.
So the NSA, through this backdoor loophole Sen. Wyden has tried to close
, allows even for data of U.S. citizens that was inadvertently swept up to be stored and to be searched. He and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) have pressed the NSA
to come clean on this loophole, with minimal success.
This is the information—electronic and phone—of people who have nothing to do with any existing investigation, who happen to be caught in the dragnet just incidentally. That belies the assurances from President Obama and from other administration officials that our privacy is protected by very strict definitions of "targeting," and that U.S. citizens who aren't targets aren't in danger of having their information stored and searched.
As is the case with "privacy," it seems like the government has its own definition of "target."