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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Legal loophole allows NSA to conduct warrantless searches for Americans’ emails and phone calls

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Madison Ruppert

Thanks to a legal loophole, the National Security Agency (NSA) has a secret backdoor allowing the agency to search their massive databases for American citizens’ emails and phone calls without a warrant, according to a secret document released today.

While some officials anonymously admitted that the NSA collects communications sent or related to overseas targets, the latest document leaked by Edward Snowden reveals that the surveillance of Americans goes far beyond what was previously thought, which is saying a lot at this point.

A rule which previously remained secret and was first reported on the Guardian on August 9 allows NSA operatives to directly search for the individual communications of Americans using their name or other identifying information.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a critic of the NSA, told the Guardian that the law indeed gives the NSA a loophole which enables “warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans.”

The authority behind the loophole was reportedly approved in 2011 and as James Ball and Spencer Ackerman rightly note, it “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.”

Then again, individuals in the Obama administration made dubious claims on multiple occasions in response to the controversy over NSA spying.

The document at issue is a secret glossary given to NSA operatives working in the Special Source Operations division, the group responsible for running the PRISM program and the agency’s large-scale intercepts enabled by partnerships with technology corporations.

“While the FAA 702 minimization procedures approved on 3 October 2011 now allow for use of certain United States person names and identifiers as query terms when reviewing collected FAA 702 data,” the document states, “analysts may NOT/NOT [not repeat not] implement any USP [US persons] queries until an effective oversight process has been developed by NSA and agreed to by DOJ/ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence].”

“Identifiers” can range from everything from a telephone number to a username to an email address to an IP address or their real name. Ball and Ackerman sum it up as “NSA jargon for information relating to an individual.”

The document never mentions if the oversight process has actually been established, which is troubling because the document is undated, though metadata indicates that it was last updated in June 2012, according to the Guardian.

“Section 702 was intended to give the government new authorities to collect the communications of individuals believed to be foreigners outside the US, but the intelligence community has been unable to tell Congress how many Americans have had their communications swept up in that collection,” Wyden said.

The problem is that these massive databases can apparently be searched by the government without obtaining a warrant, directly targeting Americans.

“Once Americans’ communications are collected, a gap in the law that I call the ‘back-door searches loophole’ allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans,” Wyden said.

How many Americans have been impacted by this loophole remains a mystery at this point, though Wyden along with Mark Udall (D-Ore.) have been fighting a behind the scenes battle close the loophole for over a year, according to the Guardian, with no success.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM - 9 PM PT/10 PM - 12 AM ET. Show page link here:http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at

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