Clapper confirms warrantless searches
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 06:45:40 GMT
The US National Security Agency has conducted searches of Americans' phone and internet communications without court warrants, the Obama administration's top intelligence official has confirmed.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged the surveillance in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and one of the most vocal critics of government surveillance. The letter was sent March 28 but disclosed on Tuesday.
Although recently declassified documents made clear that the NSA had conducted such searches, no senior intelligence official had previously acknowledged the practice.
The spying is “unacceptable” and proves the existence of a loophole in surveillance law that allows the National Security Agency to illegally search the Internet communications and listen to the phone calls of Americans who may have no connection to terrorism, Wyden and Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, said in a joint statement Tuesday.
“It raises serious constitutional questions and poses a real threat to the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans,” the lawmakers said.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the NSA to intercept the communications of suspected foreign terrorists without warrants. The data can include the communications of US citizens as long as they aren’t the target of an investigation. However, a warrant is required to search the communications of Americans who are the focus of a terrorism investigation.
Documents released last year by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, revealed that the US government systematically spies on phone calls and online activities of millions of Americans and people worldwide.