Thursday, 08 August 2013 17:16

New York Times: Yes, NSA Is Searching Americans' E-mail Content

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The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency has been searching through the e-mail messages of the American people on a massive scale, even in some instances where the messages are not to or from foreigners residing abroad. “The N.S.A. is not just intercepting the communications of Americans who are in direct contact with foreigners targeted overseas,” the August 8 story reported. “It is also casting a far wider net for people who cite information linked to those foreigners.”

Senior Obama administration officials — such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — had falsely denied the NSA even collected data on phone calls and Internet traffic on millions of Americans until whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed them to the press. 

But the New York Times story revealed that the NSA is not merely collecting the information of Americans, it is also actively sifting through Americans' private Internet and e-mail messages. “The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans’ e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials.”

The Times' story flatly contradicts the public reassurances of President Obama just two days ago. “There is no spying on Americans,” Obama told NBC's Tonight Show host Jay Leno just two days before the Times story. “We don't have a domestic spying program.”

NSA surveillance information has also been shared with other U.S. agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency, for domestic criminal prosecution, and has been for more than a decade. 

According to the Times, the collection and use of Americans' data is a result of a perceived loophole in the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) law. The NSA's interpretation of FISA law, revealed in the London Guardian via Edward Snowden, allow the NSA to sift through Americans' private data without a warrant, even if they are not to or from a suspect of an investigation. According to one paragraph in a memo Snowden revealed, the NSA “seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target.” In other words, the NSA can snoop into the private e-mails of Americans if the e-mails contain a mention about the target of an NSA investigation, even if the American is innocent or not a suspect. Consider how many Americans have sent messages mentioning “Osama bin Ladin” or “al-Qaeda” in chats or e-mails over the past decade, and one can get an impression of how large this loophole in the prohibition against domestic surveillance is.

For its part, the NSA continues to defend its intelligence surveillance of Americans. “In carrying out its signals intelligence mission, N.S.A. collects only what it is explicitly authorized to collect,” NSA spokeswoman Judith A. Emmel told the Times. “Moreover, the agency’s activities are deployed only in response to requirements for information to protect the country and its interests.”

Of course, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a warrant from a court — along with probable cause and a description of what is being searched and what will be found — in order for the search to qualify as constitutional.



  • Comment Link Heidi Preston Friday, 09 August 2013 01:47 posted by Heidi Preston

    Apparently it's a global eavesdropping playground. Germany just handed over information to the NSA too.
    "Germany's Intelligence Service BND "Has Forwarded Massive Amounts of Data to the NSA"
    Germany's BND foreign intelligence service is said to have forwarded massive amounts of data to the NSA - legally, it maintains - because information on German citizens was not included. "
    Me- lol so much for sovereignty, individual rights and liberty...Samantha Powers should do just fine at the United Nations and work on giving up a "pinch" of sovereignty to all of us.

  • Comment Link Glen DeShaw Thursday, 08 August 2013 22:37 posted by Glen DeShaw

    Yeah...they care about things like your and my personal freedoms being abridged, violated and raped. C'mon, I'm not a big fan either, but ANYONE who criticizes the abrogation of my constitutional rights cannot be without merit. We need to build allies, not throw mud at potential friends!

    Remember, it was the Tea Party who cleverly drove Russ Feingold, the only Senator with enough courage and intelligence to try and defeat the rights grab known as the Patriot Act. Not the smartest thing they ever did, which is why I refuse to walk lockstep with either side of the Aisle. I'm beginning to find the JBS to be one of the more intelligent neighbors on the block!

  • Comment Link REMant Thursday, 08 August 2013 16:57 posted by REMant

    Maybe even Osama bin Laden. But it does underscore that there still are some things the Times gets upset about besides women and slaves.

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