Wyden Continues To Press Intelligence Officials About Tracking Americans Under 'Secret' Interpretation Of The Patriot Act
from the you-have-no-privacy dept
Senator Ron Wyden has made it pretty clear, for the past few months, that the federal government is secretly interpreting the PATRIOT Act to mean that it can spy on the location of Americans without a warrant. Wyden, who is likely aware of the interpretation due to his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, can’t say what the interpretation is, but it’s become abundantly clear through his questioning. Recently, we noted his questions to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, specifically asking if government agencies “have the authority to collect the geolocation information.”
And now he’s been asking the same basic question, getting even more specific, and confirming what some had suspected all along. The link there is from Julian Sanchez, who was one of the first to piece together the clues and suggest that Wyden was hinting at an interpretation of the PATRIOT Act that let the government feel it could track location info on just about anyone with a mobile phone. Whereas Wyden’s previous questions focused generally on collecting location info, in this hearing, Wyden specifically asked if the intelligence community uses “cell site data to track the location of Americans inside the country.” At this point, it’s kind of ridiculous that the feds don’t just come out and admit it. At the hearing Wyden was told that there were “certain circumstances” under which such authority could exist, but that it was “complicated.” However, he was promised more details on the circumstances by September. As Sanchez notes:
That means that just about ten years after Congress approved the Patriot Act, a handful of legislators may get the privilege of learning what it does. Ah, democracy.
There really are two separate issues here, each of which is disturbing. The first, of course, is the feds possibly believing that they can effectively spy on everyone’s location at will. If true, that seems like a gross expansion of the surveillance state. But, perhaps an even bigger issue is that the federal government feels that it can secretly interpret laws with meanings that certainly are not stated explicitly within the law… and can then avoid explaining what its own interpretation is. That’s not how a representative and transparent government is supposed to work.