Top secret documents passed to The Guardian by Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency has a “secret backdoor” into its databases that allows its agents to search U.S. citizens’ email and phone calls without a warrant or other oversight.

The previously undisclosed capability lets NSA operatives hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information.

The authority was approved in 2011, and it contradicts repeated assurances from President Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that individual privacy is protected from the NSA’s dragnet surveillance program.

Appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno on Tuesday, President Obama said “there is no spying on Americans. We don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.”

Today’s revelation adds to the mountain of evidence released over the summer that that claim is simply not true and that the U.S. government is openly and actively deceiving the public, beginning with the president.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The intelligence data is being gathered under Section 702 of the of the Fisa Amendments Act (FAA), which gives the NSA authority to target without warrant the communications of foreign targets, who must be non-US citizens and outside the US at the point of collection.

The communications of Americans in direct contact with foreign targets can also be collected without a warrant, and the intelligence agencies acknowledge that purely domestic communications can also be inadvertently swept into its databases. That process is known as “incidental collection” in surveillance parlance.

But this is the first evidence that the NSA has permission to search those databases for specific US individuals’ communications.

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