Former NSA worker and leaker of agency documents Edward Snowden is likely lying about the power he was given to “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”
Snowden recently revealed that, during his time as an NSA private contractor in Hawaii, he was given the authority to wiretap anyone he wanted. Snowden then claimed he could perform wiretaps even without a legal court order.
NPR wasn’t buying Snowden’s statements, and they sat down to talk with a former national security lawyer at the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Henn on the popular show Morning Edition, former Justice and DNI lawyer Carrie Cordero says such unfettered power isn’t plausible. According to Cordero:
“The notion that this individual has the authority to go ahead and … ‘wiretap’ people is just ridiculous.”
Cordero spent years working with governmental agencies, and they claim that Edward Snowden’s claim “does not resemble anything close to what I observed within the intelligence community.”
Experts in the field have been quick to point out that the NSA’s data collection under the NSA PRISM program and other secret court orders have focused on large amounts of already created and stored metadata. Essentially, the NSA was collecting stored data which is far different than collecting wiretap data in real-time.
Tech companies have quickly spoke out against claims of unfettered access. Those companies have in no uncertain terms assured customers that they only hand over data when a court order asks for information.
In order for a system to work as Edward Snowden has claimed, the NSA would need to bypass court requests all together, even the secret court orders they have sought and received in recent years.
Even if Edward Snowden is exaggerating about his former power to wiretap anyone from a stay-at-home mom to President Obama, his leaked information over the last week has started a major debate between US citizens and politicians.