Wiretap Law Narrow, Officials Say

The White House is taking issue with a New York Times story that said a new wiretap law signed by the president gives the government sweeping powers.

Administration officials told reporters in a telephone briefing that the government’s new powers aren’t broad or sweeping, the New York Times reports.

They said the new law resolves a “narrow” issue by giving the government authority to wiretap foreign communications that go through U.S. telecommunication lines without a warrant. Nor does the law permit the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on a large volume of calls or e-mails in a so-called driftnet, the officials said.

But the Times asserts the law goes further, permitting warrantless surveillance of conversations by foreign targets, even when they are speaking to Americans. The newspaper also says the officials declined to discuss data-mining activities in which authorities trace “who is calling and e-mailing whom” without actually reading or listening to the messages.

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