June 16th, 2013
10:02 AM ET
2 years ago

Rogers: NSA ‘is not listening’ to Americans’ phone calls

Updated 8:22 p.m. ET, Sunday, 6/16

(CNN) – The chairman of the House intelligence committee strongly asserted Sunday that the National Security Agency is not recording Americans’ phone calls under U.S. surveillance programs, and any statements suggesting differently amount to “misinformation.”

Lining up with Obama administration officials — and the president himself — Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls” or monitoring their e-mails.

“If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think (Americans) think there's this mass surveillance of what you're saying on your phone call and what you're typing in your e-mails. That is just not happening.”

The NSA has repeatedly said that it collects only metadata — phone numbers and duration — of phone calls, but not the actual conversations taking place. If it needs to listen to a conversation, it must first obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

But during a House judiciary committee hearing Thursday with FBI Director Robert Mueller, a Democratic congressman from New York said he was told in a classified discussion that NSA analysts were capable of obtaining specific information from phone calls without a warrant.

The congressman, Jerrold Nadler, issued a statement Sunday to CNN regarding his his exchange with Mueller at the hearing.

“I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant," Nadler said.

Sunday night, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, seemed to respond to Nadler's query, saying "the statement that a single analyst can eavesdrop on domestic communications without proper legal authorization is incorrect and was not briefed to Congress."

The statement from the DNI's office went on to say that Section 702 of the Patriot Act—-the section that refers to online surveillance—-only "targets foreigners located overseas for a valid foreign intelligence purpose, and that it cannot be used to target Americans anywhere in the world."

The statement did not mention Section 215, the part of the Patriot Act that deals with phone records.

For his part, Rogers strongly pushed back at the question of whether anyone in the U.S. government was listening to the phone calls. He said “there is all this misinformation about what these programs are,” and he hopes the public will soon come to better understand how the programs disrupted terrorist plots.

The intelligence community provided some of that counterterrorism justification, releasing a document Saturday to members of Congress and to CNN that says officials searched the database — which holds billions of phone records - fewer than 300 times last year.

Along with the online surveillance program known as PRISM, the information-gathering has helped disrupt dozens of plots in the U.S and more than 20 countries, the document reported.

Read more: Intelligence community provides fuller justification for data collection

“They’re doing this right, and it is protecting the United States from terrorist attacks being plotted overseas. This is an important program to continue,” Rogers told CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

“I think it's harder to catch (terrorists) if we don't have something like this,” he said.

Asked about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Rogers said the former contractor has “betrayed the country.”

“It goes beyond the bounds of him trying to claim he's a whistle-blower - which he is not. A whistle-blower comes to the appropriate authorities with appropriate classifications, so we can investigate a possible claim,” Rogers said. “He didn't do that. He grabbed up information, he made preparations to go to China and then … bolted.”

– CNN's Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.


Filed under: Mike Rogers • NSA • State of the Union
soundoff (190 Responses)
  1. glorydays

    I beg to differ....

    June 16, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Slight of Hand

    So it is OK to keep track of whom I call and how long I talk to them, as long as they don't listen to what I say? I don't think so. No, that is not OK!

    June 16, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. Jerry Okamura

    Why do they even have to do the things they are doing?

    June 16, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  4. Phaerisee

    Denying something over and over does not make it reality.

    June 16, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. droppo

    They already lied about not collecting data. Why believe them when they don't want to get caught? Plus, they don't have to actually listen to invade our privacy. We have a right to not be investigated without just cause. If the data collecting doesn't get overturned and eliminated, we are not a free society and needito draft a new constitution cuz this one won't be valid anymore

    June 16, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  6. John Deatherage

    OK, if the governments says they're not doing anything wrong... It must be OK :)

    June 16, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. BS

    Total BS. I'm from Maryland. About 15 years ago I had a friend who worked for the NSA and his job was to monitor giant drums of paper that were computer typed phone conversations of US citizens. They've been doing this for a long time.

    June 16, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  8. GFY

    If its a person of high power speaking about secret programs and the mouth moves it lies. The listening/snooping violation of the fourth ammendmant isn't the worse part.... after wasting billions in a war on a phantom enemy (your chance of being killed by a terrorist is 1 in a hundred million) these same pathetic liars want to cut spending on food stamps and 47% of the recipients of food stamps are children.... Why? Because their friends (Booz Hamilton, et al.) can get rich "protecting us" from a phantom bogey man.... getting rich off of feeding starving children....not so much.... we live in the most corrupt culture the human race has ever seen..... we are "led" by thugs whose value system is based in greed, delusion, and deception.....and until we wake up and actually do something about it the loss of liberty, decency and dignity will get exponentially worse.

    June 16, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Sara C

    When Comey finally ordered a stop to the program, Bush signed an order renewing it anyway. Comey, Goldsmith, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most of the senior Bush appointees in the Justice Department *** began drafting letters of resignation. ***

    Then-NSA Director Michael V. Hayden was not among them. According to the inspector general’s classified report, Cheney’s lawyer, Addington, placed a phone call and “General Hayden had to decide whether NSA would execute the Authorization without the Attorney General’s signature.” He decided to go along.

    June 16, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  10. OldSchool

    While I don't entirely support the existence of the Patriot Act, I can see by the comments the difficulty they face against the ignorance of the general public. A lot of twisting of statements (Snowden never said he could tap any phone call at will), transparently uneducated speculation about the reality of what recording every phone call made in the US would entail – and how absurd it is to suggest that is what is happening. A lot of fringe types like to bemoan how seemingly easy it is for the government to mislead the general public, but they fail to realize that such misinformation can just as easily come from the other side. I can understand why the president would say that this is not how he had hoped this debate would play out, because it is an embarassing circus...

    June 16, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. EG

    I think the reason all these things are leaking right now are politically motivated and planned by the Republican Party in an effort to gain a politcal edge in the upcoming elections. I just hope people understand, while the government does listen to phone calls and hack into peoples personal computers and email conversations, it has been going on for many, many years. So for those who my think it will change by changing to a republican administration you will quickly realize it is just the opposite. As for NSAs denial, people should be asking them have they provided the technology they use to investigate terrorist to other governerment agencies to be used to spy on their employees and to use to aide in covering up and rigging the legal process involving complaints of sexual and or racial discrimination as well as cases involving injured workers. There are many people accross the country who are fully aware that they are indeed using the same tactics which is in violation of the FISA.

    June 16, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  12. Mel McCrary

    Welcome to the Information Age. Everything you say (and read, and type, and watch, and listen to...) can and will be used against you in ways you can't possibly even imagine... yet. Get used to it. It will not change.

    June 16, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. PD Gupta

    Perhaps it is true that the US government agency NSA is not listening to all phone calls. But it is also true that the said agency is certainly monitoring all phone calls to and from USA by using Prism Software Program and while doing so the agency is also listening to many of those phone calls for one reason or other under the widely broad secrecy provision allowed by the US Patriot Act that was passed by the Congress after 9/11 incident. This fact is one of the reasons why Mr. Mike Rogers is telling the media "that the National Security Agency is not recording Americans’ phone calls under U.S. surveillance programs, and any statements suggesting differently amount to misinformation". In this statement Mr. Rogers is not denying 100% that no monitoring of phone calls has been taking place at NSA. It is a fact that phone call monitoring is being done in millions instead of a few targeted calls. The so called claim of foiling terrorist attack by monitoring phone calls and or E-mail was successful only after finding the suspects first from other source of information. The claim made by NSA and or people that support NSA in this regard is rather a "misinformation" because only half of this claim is true.

    June 16, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  14. jamie

    Yeah, and they are not lying at all!

    Just telling an untruth!

    This is nothing less than the twisting of words!!

    June 16, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Zack h.

    No, they don't listen to our calls. They do, however, monitor all of our calls. It amounts to the same thing: they peer in on us with no probable cause. Now, they also use clever wordsmith techniques to make it sound like nothing is happening. Congress and our government twisting words to manipulate us? No....

    June 16, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. Tommy

    WMD in Iraq. Serine in Syria. The global order needs a police force. It has assigned the task to the good ole USA. So don't be skeptical, there is nothing you can do but complain anyway--eh, and foot the bill. Have a nice "watched" and "Bloody" Sunday.

    June 16, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  17. lisa s n.j.

    And we are supposed to believe them? Why

    June 16, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. Setec Astronomy

    Govt has been listening in on us long before Snowden blew this latest whistle. The sheeple need to lookup "Project Echelon" and "Utah Data Center". Now that I've posted this, I'm gonna go wipe my drives and go off the grid. Good luck citizens!

    June 16, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. K

    This is terrible for American tech companies because foreign countries now have a very valid excuse to block/limit the use of their products and services due to espionage concerns.

    June 16, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Emmy G

    We're not listening in! So when you said so last night on the phone to your friend, you were spreading misinformation!

    June 16, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. Nameo

    They don't have the authority to even get numbers and duration in the first place! They have the aurhority to do nothing other than sit at their desk and pick their nose unless they have a WARENT, and that must be served and made public information. The government has zero rights; we own it and we tell it what it can and can not do within thw constraints of liberty

    June 16, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. Paul Williamson

    Far worse than the NSA is Google, etc monitoring every website you visit, every email you send or receive so they can target you with unsolicited emails and on-line ads, even phone calls, many of which are outright frauds trying to take your money. This is a tremendous invasion of privacy and contributes nothing to national security. I trust NSA to do the right things far more than Google, etc, at least they have some adult oversight and the internet bandits have none.

    June 16, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. Ken

    Finally a GOP guy who is not trying to throw the NSA under the bus in order to make the president look bad in order to gain in 2014 / 2016. Point one: If anyone tells you that they KNOW everything the NSA is doing, they are not telling the truth. Point Two: If our president and his party are so bad the GOP will not have to push so hard on things like this in order to make Obama and the Dem's look bad. Point Three: Both the Rep and Dem party's fear losing power and do not care one bit about the USA / you and me. Throw all the bums out in 2014.

    June 16, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Chilly Willy

    Another govt official towing the govt. line. Clapper lied, and we are supposed to believe all these other officials? I guess they believe if you tell it often enough, by sheer repetition, the people will believe it.

    June 16, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  25. Frank

    I sfill don't understand why people complain about this.
    The government knows our Social Security because they provided it to us. The government knows our driver's license number, because they have it to us. The government knows our birth certificate, because they registered us when we were born. The government knows how much we make and where we work, because we are tax payers... Etc...

    And then people complain that the government collects metadata ONLY, phone numbers and duration. And they made it clear they don't listen to our calls. So why are people complaining when the government knows the REAL valuable stuff like social security number? And we would not live without the government providing us that. And we trust the government with our information because I have never seen someone complain when government provided them a social security, or a drivers license, and that they keep it on record. People make no sense sometimes....

    June 16, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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