Words fail me.
National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.
The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”
If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
A recent briefing by senior intelligence officials on surveillance programs failed to attract even half of the Senate, showing the lack of enthusiasm in Congress for learning about classified security programs. [WATCH VIDEO]
Many senators elected to leave Washington early Thursday afternoon instead of attending a briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials.
The Senate held its last vote of the week a little after noon on Thursday, and many lawmakers were eager to take advantage of the short day and head back to their home states for Father’s Day weekend.
Only 47 of 100 senators attended the 2:30 briefing, leaving dozens of chairs in the secure meeting room empty as Clapper, Alexander and other senior officials told lawmakers about classified programs to monitor millions of telephone calls and broad swaths of Internet activity. The room on the lower level of the Capitol Visitor Center is large enough to fit the entire Senate membership, according to a Senate aide.
The Hill was not provided the names of who did, and who didn’t, attend the briefing.
Many senators claimed they were never briefed on the NSA’s surveillance programs when the British newspaper The Guardian caused a media firestorm by reporting their existence earlier this month.
“I’m pretty good about attending meetings; I don’t remember being briefed,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) told reporters on June 6, when the public learned the extent of the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata.
He voted for the Patriot Act, but said he did not intend to grant blanket authority to collect millions of phone records.
Isakson attended the Thursday afternoon briefing and declined to comment to reporters afterward.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the chief critics of the surveillance programs, was spotted leaving the briefing.
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