Democratic senators confirm Obama lied to Americans about NSA

Two Democratic senators released a statement late Tuesday night condemning the National Security Agency and the “misleading” information President Obama has shared with the public after the director of national intelligence confirmed a ‘back-door search loophole’ the government has created that allows it to get around national privacy laws.

“It is now clear to the public that the list of ongoing intrusive surveillance practices by the NSA includes not only bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, but also warrantless searches of the content of Americans’ personal communications,” wrote U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo. 

“This is unacceptable. It raises serious constitutional questions, and poses a real threat to the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans. If a government agency thinks that a particular American is engaged in terrorism or espionage, the Fourth Amendment requires that the government secure a warrant or emergency authorization before monitoring his or her communications. This fact should be beyond dispute,” the Democrats added.

Wyden and Udall sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and had urged their fellow committee members in 2012 to keep from reauthorizing Section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act, a law that created a loophole for NSA to collect domestic communications — data and voice — without warrants.

Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., did not do away with the practice and argued that it did not use NSA’s far-reaching powers to tap into the information of Americans.

In January, Wyden and Udall contacted intelligence officials, asking for answers. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has now confirmed the secret use of this “loophole” written into the law. Under the loophole, applications including Prism, which gives the agency the ability to collect user data from Google, Apple, Yahoo and other tech companies, along with the government’s Upstream program, a large network of internet cable taps, have been pulling specific information on people with connections to foreign contacts.

“There have been queries, using US person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence targeting non-US persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States,” Clapper wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Guardian. “These queries were performed pursuant to minimization procedures approved by the Fisa court and consistent with the statute and the fourth amendment.”

At the center of this new information is President Obama, who had specifically stated in January that the NSA does not listen to Americans’ phone calls, “This program does not involve the content of phone calls or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and length of calls, metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.”

Wyden and Udall confirmed that is not the case.

The facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans’ communications using the ‘back-door search’ loophole in section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Today’s admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through data collected under section 702 to find the communications of individual Americans.”


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