Is the Obama Administration Snooping Through Our Data?

MSNBC's Adam Serwer analyzes -- with some skepticism -- President Obama's recent "assurances" on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno that the government isn't spying on Americans.

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President Barack Obama (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

MSNBC's Adam Serwer analyzes President Obama's recent "assurances" on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno that the government isn't spying on Americans, in light of information revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden about the agency's worldwide data-gathering networks.

President Obama said the U.S. government is not spying on American citizens during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

"There is no spying on Americans, we don’t have a domestic spying program," Obama told Leno. "What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat." But what does he mean exactly?

The president’s argument seems to hinge on a technicality: That the law granting the government surveillance powers does not allow U.S. agencies to "target" purely domestic communications. In practice however, as we’ve learned from the secret court order leaked by Edward Snowden, Americans' communications data is being gathered in bulk by the National Security Agency. The law also allows warrantless surveillance of communications where one party is in the United States if another is assumed to be outside the country.

Read Adam Serwer's entire piece at MSNBC.

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