…but don’t worry, they’re not doing it anymore
Oct. 3, 2013
Minor details of a scrapped NSA pilot project, in which the semi-covert spy agency used cellphone towers to map out peoples’ locations, came out during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, once again prompting concerns the agency violated the Fourth Amendment with impunity.
The project was revealed on Wednesday by the New York Times and was later confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
“In 2010 and 2011,” Clapper said, “N.S.A. received samples in order to test the ability of its systems to handle the data format, but that data was not used for any other purpose and was never available for intelligence analysis purposes.”
Clapper gave scant details on the surveillance project, neglecting to reveal the precise number of people who had their data collected in this fashion, and omitting the length of time the agency planned to hold on to the data or why the program had stalled.
Clapper reassured, however, that had the NSA decided to move forward with the project, it would have notified Congress and asked for approval, adding that no locational data was collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law that pretty much gives the government the authority to violate Americans’ privacy in the name of national security.
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., criticized the NSA’s sluggish release of the data saying there was “more to know about the matter than the government had declassified,” according to the New York Times.
“After years of stonewalling on whether the government has ever tracked or planned to track the location of law-abiding Americans through their cellphones, once again, the intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret — even when the truth would not compromise national security,” Wyden stated.
News of the latest spy technique comes on the heels of another big revelation by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported Sunday, in which he divulged a supposedly now-defunct process titled “contact chaining,” a process by which the NSA combed through Americans’ phone and e-mail logging data who had been in direct or indirect contact with foreign intelligence suspects.
The procedure also involved analysts sifting through Americans’ social network profiles to flesh out persons of interest.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, said Wednesday he was drafting a law that would make it harder to obtain Americans’ communication data.
“The government has not made its case that bulk collection of domestic phone records is an effective counterterrorism tool, especially in light of the intrusion on American privacy,” Leahy said.
In June, Congressmen Wyden and Mark Udall disputed NSA agency head General Keith Alexander’s claim that the NSA helped thwart “dozens of terrorist events.” At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in August, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis admitted to Sen. Leahy during testimony that the number of terrorist plots thwarted with the aid of the NSA was actually closer to one.
Earlier today, Storyleak.com editor and Infowars correspondent Anthony Gucciardi was met with a police blockade for merely attempting to speak to the Public Information Officer at the NSA’s Utah Data Center.