We had just talked about how Ron Wyden has been trying to pin the NSA down on whether or not it collected mobile phone location data
, and how NSA officials continue to dance around the question by claiming "not under this program." Charlie Savage, over at the NY Times, now has an article about a "pilot program" the NSA did
doing bulk collection of the location of Americans' mobile phones. The pilot program was run in 2010 and 2011. While the NSA eventually decided not to go forward with the program, they certainly did use it for a period of time. The existence of the program was apparently "recently declassified" by James Clapper -- but not actually revealed (neat trick!). Clapper had a "draft answer" ready about the program if he was asked about it, but with Feinstein carefully making sure Wyden couldn't ask too many questions, it appears the question never made it to the floor. Still, the NY Times received the draft answer, which according to them said:
“In 2010 and 2011 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,” the draft answer says, adding that the N.S.A. has promised to notify Congress and seek the approval of a secret surveillance court in the future before any locational data was collected using Section 215.
Senator Wyden told the NY Times that this answer is not providing "the real story":
“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,” Mr. Wyden said.
I imagine there will be much more to come on this story.