Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 29, 2015

Intelligence Director Appears to Concede NSA Searched Communications (Video)

James R. Clapper Jr.

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Security Agency may have read your communications, albeit under limited circumstances.

That seems to be the takeaway of a newly-released letter from Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. to noted NSA skeptic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“There have been queries, using U.S. person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence by targeting non U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. pursuant to Section 702 of FISA,” Clapper wrote in a March 28 letter to Wyden.

Wyden and Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall offered a scathing joint response to Clapper’s letter.

“Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans’ emails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant. However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans’ communications using the ‘back-door search’ loophole in section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” the two senators wrote. “Today’s admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through data collected under section 702 to find the communications of individual Americans.”

Wyden had questioned Clapper about the communications collected under section 702 of FISA at an open hearing of the Intelligence Committee back in January, although Clapper was careful to avoid tipping his hand in that setting.

“There are very complex legal issues here that I just don’t think this is the appropriate time to discuss them,” Clapper said during that appearance before the committee on Jan. 29.

It appears that the answer to the question, months later, is that yes, some searches took place.

Comments (43)

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  1. Despiser_of_Libs

    April 2, 2014
    12:57 p.m.

    Democrats lost America’s first Civil War because they enslaved Black people. Democrats are going to lose the second Civil War because they attempted to enslave the rest of us…

    • Lee Mulcahy

      April 3, 2014
      12:15 a.m.

      Every 50+ years, the American people rebel and turn the tide back on the greed and arrogance of the powerful

      Teddy Roosevelt did it to the robber barrons and we must do it together in solidarity, one district at a time, to unite against the oligarchy of our day—the giant federal spying government in DC, the giant corporations, Wall $treet corruption and the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.

      If you live in Colorado, in the 5th Senate District, vote independent—v ote for Lee Mulcahy, Senate candidate. We must fight back for our freedom against the all seeing Eye of Sauron, the NSA.

      Here is a hilarious story of greed and arrogance gone wild in the Wildest town in the West, outside of Vegas:

    • Commuted

      April 3, 2014
      12:47 a.m.

      It’s unfortunate both parties agree here. These divide tactics only distract. Clapper is a little Eichmann, all he wants is to build his thing that collects and stores everything. Then get a tickle in his frozen zone when somebody comes along and uses it.

    • Max_1

      April 3, 2014
      2:02 a.m.

      “JUST” Democrats?
      I know Nancy Pelosi(D) decided to take accountability “OFF THE TABLE”.
      So, what’s John Boehner’s excuse?

  2. Max_1

    April 3, 2014
    2:04 a.m.


    Consider this:
    Legal accountability comes from the House.
    The House will only act when the People act!
    So… ACT!

  3. JCDavis

    April 3, 2014
    6:43 a.m.

    They are collecting data BEFORE they have probable cause, and they are doing that to millions of Americans. That is illegal under the 4th amendment, even if they later get a warrant. When you look at what they are doing and the lies they have told and are still telling, it’s obviously not possible to reform this agency, so it must be destroyed.

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