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Originally published June 28 2013

Proof comes out: NSA needs no warrant to gather spy data on Americans

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Before reading any further, it is important for Americans to understand something about our constitutional system: Just because some official "entity" - a federal court, a bureaucracy, a president - "authorizes" an action does not make that authorization proper or even legal.

The Constitution is clear on what actions can - and cannot - be taken by members of all three branches of government. So when you hear a president, or a lawmaker, or a bureaucrat say something to the effect that they have the "authority" to do something, just remember that the only true "authority" they have is derived from the Constitution, and the Constitution alone. And if their actions are in violation of the Constitution, then they are not proper, regardless of any "authority" they claim to possess.

With that in mind, in the wake of revelations earlier in June that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been conducting blanket surveillance on Americans' electronic communications, the world's most formidable spy organization is now claiming that it has the "authority" to spy on any American, at any time, without first obtaining a search warrant.

NSA's mandate is foreign surveillance

According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, which first published details about how the NSA has been spying on American citizens - details obtained from NSA analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden in early June - the agency, per its initial congressional mandate, is permitted to conduct primarily foreign surveillance, and that any surveillance of any U.S.-based suspect be conducted as a result of information gleaned from that foreign surveillance.

In other words, that means if the NSA discovers information about a terrorist plot being directed at the United States from, say, a suspect in Yemen, and that Yemeni suspect has contacts inside the U.S., then the NSA would be permitted to then open surveillance on that U.S. contact as well and collect/retain any pertinent information on that U.S.-based suspect, even if he/she is a citizen.

However, in order for that to happen, the NSA must first get proper, constitutional authorization from a special secret federal court established under provisions of FISA - the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - in order to intercept electronic communications of any American citizen that has been tied to a suspected terrorist/criminal plot.

According to the Guardian, the NSA has done that in order to conduct foreign surveillance, but that in doing so, the agency sweeps up U.S. communications as well.

Oversight? What oversight?

So in essence, the NSA swept up U.S. communications as well, under the guise of conducting foreign surveillance. Per the paper:

The procedures cover only part of the NSA's surveillance of domestic US communications. The bulk collection of domestic call records, as first revealed by the Guardian earlier this month, takes place under rolling court orders issued on the basis of a legal interpretation of a different authority, section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Since news broke of the NSA's broad U.S. surveillance, President Obama and defenders of his administration have often referenced the FISA court's "oversight" role, but as the Guardian noted the procedures the court uses to approve - to "authorize" - such surveillance had never before been revealed. And Americans, until now, could only guess how effective such "oversight" really was.

Which is to say, not very.

Because of the paper's disclosures Americans now know that the NSA, per the "authority" granted it by the FISA court, can also

-- Collect and hold data that may contain information on U.S. citizens for up to five years;

-- Retain and use information "inadvertently obtained," if it is deemed to contain useable information related to criminal activity;

-- "Access the content of communications gathered from 'U.S. based machine[s]' or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance," the Guardian reported.

False choice - security or privacy

Since these disclosures, some U.S. lawmakers have actually objected to the NSA's widespread surveillance and the FISA court's overly broad "authorizations" and are offering up legislation aimed at "increasing the transparency" of the FISA court (though House and Senate intelligence oversight committees should already be requiring this). Such legislation would have to have overly broad support from both chambers of Congress to make it into law should it pass Obama will veto it.

That said, the American people need to understand that what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Obama are saying now - that there needs to be "a balance between privacy and national security" - is completely at odds with the Constitution, and a bogus choice to begin with. They are saying the federal government should be able to violate your privacy at will, regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says, as long as they say it's for "national security."


Americans can have, and should expect, both security and privacy.

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