New documents suggest NSA can spy without warrant

The National Security Agency (NSA) has considerable leeway to use information it obtains without a warrant. 

Some of the agency's tactics were revealed Friday after the NSA handed over top secret documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post about its domestic phone and email surveillance programs.

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The documents show that the NSA uses a broad, rolling certificate good for one year that allows it to seize phone records and emails for an array of targets that the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, which oversees the NSA’s intelligence programs, doesn’t approve individually, like it would for a warrant.

In addition, if the NSA deems a communication as containing “significant foreign intelligence” or evidence of a crime, it can go after the alleged transgressor even if the communication was obtained inadvertently.

“The new documents show that the NSA collects, processes, retains and disseminates the contents of Americans’ phone calls and emails under a wide range of circumstances,” The Washington Post wrote.

The NSA says the program is only for foreign suspects and that it can’t target American citizens without a warrant.

Still, the revelations are likely to fuel calls for oversight and transparency for the programs, which have been the focus of national attention since the two news outlets first published documents from leaker Edward Snowden.



President Obama will meet Friday for the first time with an independent oversight board tasked with monitoring civil liberties issues within the federal government, as the White House looks to squelch criticism that it’s been complicit in a program that violates the privacy of U.S. citizens.

The president and many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have argued that the policy, which was implemented in 2007, strikes the right balance between privacy and national security, and that it had been helpful in thwarting terrorist attacks.