Did FBI Counterterrorism Agent Reveal That Feds Now Record All Phone Calls?
from the er...-what? dept
It’s long been assumed (or hinted at very strongly by a variety of evidence) that the feds have been making and collecting copies of pretty much every digital communication available. A whistleblower from AT&T more or less revealed the details on that. The NSA’s ability to collect all this data is well documented, and people are just now coming to terms with the legal loopholes used to justify this mass sweeping up of communications.
However, for the most part, it was believed that the content of phone calls was not included in this broad sweep. While it’s well known that law enforcement can get a wiretap on your phone if they suspect something, there was little indication that other calls are being recorded. Similarly, information about who you called and when you spoke to them tends to be easy for law enforcement to get. However, Glenn Greenwald is noting that a former FBI counterterrorism agent, Tim Clemente, went on TV, and in discussing the investigation of Katherine Russell (the wife of deceased accused Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev) has clearly said that the contents of historical phone calls are also available to the feds.
BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?
CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.
CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”
It’s possible this was an exaggeration, but when questioned about this particular point later, Clemente again insisted that it was the case and specifically added that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored. Of course, again, he may have misspoken. Or he may be exaggerating for effect. There’s also the possibility that Tamerlan’s phone calls were actually being tapped given the earlier investigation of him for possible terrorist connections.
So there are numerous possibilities here, but it is still a case of an FBI counterterrorism agent claiming, multiple times, that the contents of all phone calls are being recorded, which, if true, would be quite a revelation (and probably not something Clemente is supposed to be revealing via an interview with the media). At the very least, it would be good for there to be some serious follow up on this to find out how true Clemente’s claims really are.