DNI denies NSA analysts can tap calls without a warrant

The intelligence community on Sunday rejected claims from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and reports that suggested analysts were able to listen to domestic phone conversations without warrants.

“The statement that a single analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was not briefed to Congress,” said the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in a statement

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“Members have been briefed on the implementation of Section 702, that it targets foreigners located overseas for a valid foreign intelligence purpose, and that it cannot be used to target Americans anywhere in the world,” it added.

The statement came a day after a report by CNET which said that Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) had said he was told in a classified briefing that NSA analysts were allowed to listen to domestic phone calls without a prior warrant.

That CNET report came from a public exchange between Nadler and FBI Director Robert Mueller during a Thursday House hearing. Nadler sought clarification on whether warrantless wiretapping was allowed, a practice Mueller denied.


On Sunday, Nadler said he did not believe the NSA could listen to phone calls of Americans without a warrant, a statement seemingly intended to put to rest the CNET report.

“I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant,” Nadler said in a statement, according to reports. 

The CNET report and earlier claims by admitted leaker Snowden that analysts had the ability to tap into communications without legal authorization were strongly denied by administration officials and lawmakers on Sunday.

“Not all analysts have the power to target anything. But I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email,” Snowden had said in an interview earlier this month with the Guardian newspaper.

The former government contractor leaked classified information detailing the extent of the NSA’s secret phone and Internet surveillance programs.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) however said his broader claim of warrantless wiretapping was not true.

“It is against the law for the NSA to record and monitor U.S., Americans’ phone calls. It is against the law, and the law is very clear on this,” said Rogers on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The NSA is not listening to Americans phone calls and it is not monitoring their emails,” he said. 

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also denied Snowden’s claim on Sunday during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Ben Geman and Justin Sink contributed.