Update: Snowden Redeemed: Secret Congressional Briefings Reveal NSA Listening to Phone Calls, Too... Without WarrantsSubmitted by LapHog on Sat, 06/15/2013 - 21:05
Update: Nadler issued a statement this morning:
“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,” Nadler said in a statement to several news outlets.
That was it. Talk about backtracking, or hushing up at least...
So CNET has since updated their headline on the original story, as well as amending a few other parts, which are annotated at the bottom of the article. Note well that Nadler did not, however, clarify what so "startled" him about what he heard in the secret briefing; nor did he clarify his line of questioning, either, which clearly included a concern about "if you want to listen to the phone...." before he was interrupted by Mueller's answer. And these were clearly concerns rooted in the briefing he had attended.
But all he released was just this cryptic statement. See, once again, the link in update II of this post at the bottom, which is a piece about the context and the laws in question (which presciently highlighted the ambiguity of the exchange, while addressing the possibilities).
In any case, we've all seen numerous reports, including from whistleblowers, indicating that call content is indeed recorded and stored, and that aspect is still not being addressed at all in these questions and cryptic statements. They are dancing around the language of what constitutes "collected," and statements like Nadler's, which says they "cannot listen to the content without a specific warrant," fail also to confirm or deny that they are indeed acquiring and storing all of our call content.(End Update)
Wanna know what about the secret Congressional briefings on the surveillance programs astounded Loretta Sanchez? This must read, hot off the press from CNET, redeeming much of what Snowden has alleged, sheds some light on it:
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week 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.
Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler's disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.
The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii "wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president."
You're gonna wanna read it all: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57589495-38/nsa-admits-lis...
Update: Also, remember when Obama said this?
Nobody's listening to your telephone calls.
Alas, it appears that indeed he was being "too cute by half."
Or, as we mere non-politician types say: He was lying.
Update II: See also this piece for additional commentary on the context of the discussion on which the CNET article is based.