President Obama warned on Wednesday that the National Security Agency is capable of accessing millions of messages on American mobile phones without the need for court orders, according to a letter to a member of Congress.
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, comes as President Obama and top administration officials have been warning that the NSA’s data collection program is an unprecedented intrusion into the privacy of millions of Americans.
The NSA’s ability to intercept and store billions of communications every day and the ability to tap into the contents of millions more phone calls and text messages has been revealed in a series of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Obama has repeatedly said that the U.S. has been able to keep its secrets, and that the programs have been kept safe.
But Obama’s letter, signed by Reps.
Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., appears to raise new concerns about how the agency can monitor millions of American citizens.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in December 2016 concluded that the surveillance of the metadata of millions upon millions of cell phone calls was unconstitutional, as well as unlawful, in violation of the U: Convention against Torture.
The U.K. and Sweden also agreed in that same report that the monitoring of their citizens’ data was unlawful.
The Guardian has published a series that documents the metadata collection of the vast majority of U..
S.-bound cellphone calls, which the newspaper has said is used to track people and the locations of their devices.
The Associated Press obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request and is republishing the letter as it has become public.
The White House and the NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.