The NSA has a secret legal "backdoor" allowing it to search for emails and other information related to specific Americans without a warrant, the Guardian reports. It's the latest leak from Edward Snowden, and this time it comes with confirmation from Senate Intelligence Committee member and perpetual NSA critic Ron Wyden. Under a legal authority approved in 2011, the NSA can search its database directly for anything it may have collected—inadvertently or otherwise—on a "US Person," meaning anyone living in the US.
"A gap in the law that I call the 'backdoor searches loophole' allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans," Wyden says. However, a secret glossary document leaked by Snowden indicates that, while the law allows such searches, "analysts may NOT/NOT implement any USP [US persons] queries until an effective oversight process has been developed." The document appears to have been last updated in June 2012, and it's unclear if this oversight has been implemented yet.