Intelligence Agencies Conducted Broad Sweep Of Warrantless Searches On Americans

Matt Sledge
Huffington Post: Jul 1, 2014

The nation’s top intelligence agency revealed in a letter made public Monday that the NSA, CIA and FBI are engaging in a large number of warrantless searches of the content of Americans’ communications caught up in collection on foreign targets.

The letter, sent by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), also disclosed that there are large gaps in how the government tracks searches on Americans’ communications — and that the FBI simply does not track such searches at all.

Those revelations immediately raised an alarm for Wyden, who has begged the NSA for years to reveal how many “backdoor searches” it conducts, and on June 5 in Senate questioning pressed again for more detail.

“When the FBI says it conducts a substantial number of searches and it has no idea of what the number is, it shows how flawed this system is and the consequences of inadequate oversight,” Wyden said in a statement. “This huge gap in oversight is a problem now, and will only grow as global communications systems become more interconnected.”

The intelligence agencies for years have resisted making public the details of such searches, conducted under a 2008 law meant to bring President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program under court review.

A provision of the law crafted then, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was meant to ensure that only foreigners would be targeted for NSA collection. But the agency collects both sides of communications sent abroad, meaning that the agency picks up the content of Americans’ communications “incidentally” collected. The Washington Post reported on Monday that the NSA considers 193 foreign countries — containing the vast majority of the earth’s population — to be valid foreign intelligence targets.

(read the full article at Huffington Post)

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