NSA Searched Americans’ E-Mail, Phone Calls, Clapper Says

by Chris Strohm, Bloomberg  |  published on April 2, 2014

U.S. intelligence agencies searched the content of e-mails and other electronic communications of Americans without warrants, the nation’s top intelligence official told members of Congress.

The queries were part of efforts to obtain information about suspected foreign terrorists under a law that Congress passed in 2008, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a March 28 letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and one of the most vocal critics of government surveillance.

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 an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“It raises serious constitutional questions and poses a real threat to the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans,” the lawmakers said. “Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans’ e-mails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant. However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading.”

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