The Obama administration is repeatedly denying that calls content is being recorded, as recently as today:
McDonough said Congress authorized the programs as a way to thwart plots against Americans and that lawmakers should stay up to date on how they are run. The administration has said the program collected only "metadata" - raw information that does not identify individual telephone subscribers and did not monitor calls.
This clearly contradicts other reports in Washington Post and CNET. Today, Barton Gellman released more about the specific programs in the Washington Post:
It appears the four systems are the following: MAINWAY and MARINA for call metadata and Internet metadata; NUCLEON and PRISM are for the call content and Internet content.
Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet, process trillions of “metadata” records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively. Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.
The other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called NUCLEON. For Internet content, the most important source collection is the PRISM project reported on June 6 by The Washington Post and the Guardian.
It remains surprising that the Obama administration's talking points have not changed in the face of these new reports. There has been little reaction thus far to the revelations from Washington Post and CNET above, and if we don't start hearing something different, it is going to seriously undermine the credibility of the most powerful office of government in the country — one I voted for and one I want to believe in.The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls, a participant said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."
If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.
Q: Do you think President Obama fully knows and understands what the NSA is doing?
Binney: No. I mean, it's obvious. I mean, the Congress doesn't either. I mean, they are all being told what I call techno-babble ... and they (lawmakers) don't really don't understand what the NSA does and how it operates. Even when they get briefings, they still don't understand.
Radack: Even for people in the know, I feel like Congress is being misled.
Radack: I call it perjury.