More confusion, or just more lies? You decide.
In an exchange first caught by CNET, Rep Gerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller late last week about the NSA surveillance programs.
Nadler asked Mueller if a warrant is needed to listen to the content of a domestic phone call. Mueller said a national security letter is needed to get subscriber info and a FISA warrant is needed to get content. Nadler said he was told the exact opposite.
At a closed door briefing earlier, Nadler had been told that if the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee. Nadler added that he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."
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 NSA yesterday declined to comment to CNET. A representative said Nadler was not immediately available. (This is unrelated to last week's disclosure that the NSA is currently collecting records of the metadata of all domestic Verizon calls, but not the actual contents of the conversations.)
Watch the exchange below: