BY NATHAN MEHRENS | MAY 15, 2013
NSA denies spying on U.S. citizens
"One of the biggest misconceptions about [the] National Security Agency is that we are unlawfully listening in on, or reading emails of, U.S. citizens. This is simply not the case."
That was a National Security Agency (NSA) statement published by Reuters on april 15 that sought to quell fears the federal government's top signal intelligence agency was aggregating emails and phone conversations of U.S. citizens.
Apparently, Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, did not get the memo when he appearedd May 1 on CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett. She wanted to know if the government could listen in, after the fact, to telephone conversations between Katherine Russell, widow of the deceased Boston terrorist bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and her late husband.
Clemente's response was, to say the least, shocking: "[T]here is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation."
Burnett could not believe what she was hearing, and commented, "So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible."
Clemente replied, "No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not."
As a counterterrorism agent, Clemente would certainly be in a position to know if, in the conduct of a national security investigation, the government could tap into past conversations. But how would that be possible?
Former NSA employee William Binney, a whistleblower who left the agency as technical director of the agency's world geopolitical and military analysis reporting group in 2001, may have the answer. After nearly 40 years of service, Binney resigned over the government's use of a monitoring program that he in part says he helped to design.
"After 9/11, all of the wraps came off for NSA and they just decided to — between the White House and NSA and CIA — to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens and collect domestically," Binney said in an interview with Democracy Now.