June 16th, 2013
10:02 AM ET
10 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. Sirned

    Every time I listen to CNN I can't help wondering if they are scared of the NSA. The way they defend the program is so over the top and biased ....Really fishy to me

    June 16, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. Bob

    I believe the NSA. I believe the IRS. I believe Obama. I believe Congress. I am certified crazy.

    June 16, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Jupiter

    Only a fool would think or believe that government should discuss intelligence matters with the public.

    June 16, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Lib

    I believe General Alexander and Rep Rogers. Snowden is in China giving out more top security information. I will not believe these top military Americans are the ones we need to look out for. I believe these men have a love for their country and along with the Obama administration they are doing what they can to keep this country safe and to also lessen the number of American military being killed in wars. I trust my government before this HS drop out who is in China running his mouth off and enjoying a celebrity status there.

    June 16, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Airbornevet

    Some naive kid thinks he knows it all then blasts what he thinks is the truth and now those who want to believe him always will no matter the evidence or those who actually know how this is run say. They will always take the word of this guy as the word of god.
    Just like those who want to believe Palin is smart no matter the evidence. They always will because when she does dumb things (everyday) she just blames it on the "lamestream media".
    God, that is so funny – people are even dumber than I.

    June 16, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  6. Just

    Today's official version is.......

    June 16, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  7. Lib

    If you have not committed any crimes or joined any organizations as Palin's husband and many other anti government organizations then you have nothing to worry about. Even if information is used against you in a court if there was not a warrant issued it may not be admissible. I will not be one of those paranoid people who is silly to believe that the government has that much manpower to just sit and listen to conversations that will not benefit them in any way. The report says there was only 300 calls monitored anyway.

    June 16, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. oldpatriot

    Rogers is a fascist that wouldn't know the truth or how to be honest if his life depended upon it.

    June 16, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. oneWayfarer

    REMEMBER the YEARS that Bush Officials INSISTED that the United states did not TORTURE Prisoners? Unfortunately we are SO STUPID that we will accept what they tell us – even when they are just making it all up.
    The BUSH administration simply re-defined torture as being stuff that was NOT what they were doing.
    The OBAMA administration is trying to convince us that the Secret Program they did not want us to Know About
    is only chasing Bad Gus and we should not worry that all our email and phone calls and credit card transactions and facebook posts and skype videos - > are all being logged and SIFTED looking for 'Bad Words' and 'Suspicious Patterns' that COMPUTERS determine makes us in need of further SNOOPING.

    June 16, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. tabs

    Unfortunately.... Most of us just can't believe the NSA. They could be telling us the truth, but since we'll really never know, we will assume the worst....

    June 16, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Who are they kidding!?
    There needs to be a Propaganda class at these Ivy League universities their (old/dead) parents paid for. It's like a repeat of the late sixties when people (authorities) used "Reefer Madness" as factual info to herd the mass away from cannabis.(When it used to be a law to grow the plant when our famous founding father).

    30 years and all these OLD SCHOOL Boomers are gone. Even then, their younger (brain washed-rather brain rendered useless) protege will still fight for whatever.

    June 16, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  12. tabs

    Really, how did Edward Snowden betray the country? Do they really think terrorists didn't know that they were being watched by the US????? Only American's didn't know about the real possibility of the government watching citizens.

    June 16, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Stuart

    Listening to the chatter coming out of the intelligence community, Congress and the executive branch all saying the same thing as if they are reading from a prepared statement. That alone gives me cause to worry what they actually are doing. Blanket subpoenas on an entire population of people is wrong and no matter what, saying the FISA court is protecting us is a misleading statement.That court was set up to protect the government and intelligence community from us, its citizens.Using statements that it has saved the country from terrorist acts and not saying what they were is suspicious. There would be court trials that this intelligence would appear in yet nothing is said. Could it be that they know it is illegally obtained information and not used. As Ronald Reagan once said :trust but verify: means that they need to support their statements.

    June 16, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Logic N LA

    Oh please! Who care what you did with your date last night or how much you drank or your lies about your sex life. there is a reason they don't listen to the calls. read Facebook or Twitter- they replaced actual calls and we say NOTHING!

    June 16, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. Jonathon Venger

    And why should we believe Rogers? Because he's Chairman of the Intelligence Committee? It is technically possible for government to listen in on phone calls and intercept emails. We already know this, despite the NSA chief's assertion the other day that it is not possible. The question is, is NSA or other agencies engaging in illegal wiretapping? Who exactly, is there to stop them? We're talking about the exact same government that writes laws that determine who can or cannot purchase a firearm, even though the Constitution itself specifically says that the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed". Well, government IS infringing...and for goverment to claim that they are not listening in is simply not very credible.

    June 16, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  16. Narinder

    Recording may not be listening.

    June 16, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  17. john yaya

    Be glad Snowden took the part in his oath seriously that mentions '...defending the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic...' and not the part about '...oh and don't tell the American people how badly they're getting screwed by the very people trusted with upholding their liberty...'

    June 16, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. They Lie

    I find the claim that government is not engaging in illegal activity to be a not-credible claim.

    This is the same government that writes laws that determine who can and cannot purchase a firearm, even though the Constitution clearly says that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    A government will to break the law in one area will have no problem with breaking the law in other areas. They simply claim that there's a greater good in doing so, and tell us to sit down and shut up.

    June 16, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. NC

    Some people have no idea what Metadata is. It is impossible to listen to the millions of telephone calls placed daily in our country.

    June 16, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  20. ihbarddx

    This article is misinformation – and planned misinformation. First, the NSA doesn't collect metadata. Who calls whom for how long and from where: that's information and not metadata. They so characterize it to confuse you. Secondly, the NSA doesn't destroy bunnies either. That doesn't meant that what it does do is OK. Thirdly, they will lie in your face – exactly the way Clapper did when he said the government wasn't doing stuff like this. Whether they are telling the truth or not – how can you tell? They are professional liars, who know how to use lies mixed with truth to better effect. ("Partial modified hang-out")

    It doesn't matter if it's a good idea to do this. It doesn't matter if it's necessary. To a certain extent, it doesn't matter if it's legal. It's the death of government by of and for the people. It's the triumph of secret government. A secret court is no court at all. It's the death of democracy as we have come to know it.

    June 16, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. Dee

    Ok then why did they admit in a secret briefing that they have thousands of analysts that read emails and texts and listen to phone calls? Didn't they figure that secret metting crap would get out? It is released by another news source. Lied to yet again... Geeez...

    June 16, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  22. Just Sayin

    Well it isn't foolproof is it now. Apparently Boston wasn't on the radar! Oh and also, why, with all that information, didn't they know about the brothers before they killed everyone. Just sayin...

    June 16, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. PuzzledInPeoria

    The Warren Commission. The Vietnam War. Watergate. Iran/Contra. Monica Gate. The Iraq War.

    For anyone who thinks high officials of the U.S. government would not lie to the public, there are a few recent reminders. It's all about money, power, and making fortunes. Always has been, always will be.

    June 16, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  24. to little transparancy...to much hidden to trust it

    i'm sorry. but for the govemrent to treat the United States Citizens like chidren...and consistantly withhold important imformation so they LOOK better, is dis honorable.

    There are so many things hidden to the public in fear of what we wont agree with its not even funny.

    The public would have never voted for our money to be dumped into a NSA spy program while we were losing our economy, homes, incomes, jobs, medical insurance, etc..

    Something like this if the economy is ok is one thing, but when the average american is suffereing to a point of our govmernt wont even raise minimum wage for everone when its long over due and they dump our tax payer funds into thsi "Secret program with a Secret JURY..which is Illeagle..is completely WRONG

    June 16, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  25. Qwen

    I remember the Congressional hearings after 9/11 where the agents spoke about how they were unable to put pieces of data together with the current computer systems. These surveillance programs look like the government's response.

    June 16, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
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