In the Live Q & A with Edward Snowden hosted by the Guardian, Snowden doubled down on his claim that he had the authority to wiretap anyone.
Responding to this question:
Asked by MonaHol, 17 June 2013 4:37pm
Ed Snowden, I thank you for your brave service to our country.
Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this:
I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email.
Do you stand by that, and if so, could you elaborate?
Yes, I stand by it. US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection – policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection – a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the “widest allowable aperture,” and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn’t stop being protected communications just because of the IP they’re tagged with.
More fundamentally, the “US Persons” protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”
Yesterday, the intelligence community disputed Snowden’s claims on this issue, releasing a statement from the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) saying, “The statement that a single analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was not briefed to Congress.”
Representative Nadler (D-NY) had reported to the press last week, he had learned that the NSA could listen to phone conversations without a warrant if analyst thought it necessary.