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.

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Comments on “Wyden Continues To Press Intelligence Officials About Tracking Americans Under 'Secret' Interpretation Of The Patriot Act”

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23 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Mobile Phone Tracking

If you carry a mobile phone, you can be tracked or bugged any time your mobile phone carrier pleases. They know where you are within 5 meters. They can turn on the microphone and record all sound near it, without your knowledge or consent. Any security or police service can apply enough pressure that all the carriers have to be obedient.

Your choices are, (1) Take out the battery, (2) put the phone in a radio-shielded container, (3) Put the phone far away, (4) Do not own a mobile phone. Just having a landline is pretty good, actually.

Brendan (profile) says:

Crystal Ball disappearing act?

Has anyone else notice the crystal ball has disappeared, is disabled in account settings and cannot be reenabled at this time?

I’m hoping this is just some maintenance downtime, but I wanted to check if it was just me…

Even better, I hope we’re about to see he long awaited new round of cwf/rtb opions…

That Anonymous Coward says:

We have to have the Patriot Act to protect our way of life!

We can’t let you know how its being abused now, despite our promises that it would never happen because you’d vote us all out!

Quick anyone who dares to question anything happening under this, call them Unamerican and throw them under the bus!

I wonder if we pointed out to the members of Congress that they are not immune to these sorts of things, and LulzSec is working on accessing the logs if they would then pass laws to stop it and destroy the archive to keep themselves from being exposed once again as corrupt.

That Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem is the system is rigged.

Those who can not see beyond the end of their nose just assume they would never be lied to about these things.

Those who see the long term issues, are shouted down as unamerican and investigated by grand jury’s looking for a way to use the law to silence them.

Sadly it might be time for those who want to do something to cause change to take a page from the Murdoch playbook, and begin full on exposure of each and every little corrupt thing until the American people can no longer just accept it was some wacky “activists” who caught them in an unguarded moment, and that these officials care not about the people who got them there but more about the money that keeps them there.

out_of_the_blue says:

Mike's pose of thoughtful ignorance:

“At this point, it’s kind of ridiculous that the feds don’t just come out and admit it.”

At this point, tiptoeing around as if just found out you’re being surveilled in every way possible at every moment — especially by your beloved Google that feeds the gov’t — IS completely ridiculous.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:

If our only options are to either fix the corporate cluster-f**k known as the US federal government or emigrate, emigrating might be the easiest and cheapest; however, the US FCCF (Federal Corporate Cluster-F**k) is trying to impose imperial domain of some sort or another over even the most 3rd world backwater s**thole.

PT says:

“… believing that they can effectively spy on everyone’s location at will … secretly interpret laws … avoid explaining …”

It’s all perfectly logical. The Feds know beyond a shadow of doubt that they CAN spy on everyone’s location, because they are doing it. However, they also know they MAY NOT do it because it’s unconstitutional. It follows naturally that if they want to continue doing it, they must interpret the law to permit their activity. Finally, they must avoid explaining their interpretation because they know it can’t stand up to a challenge.

Obama’s complete abandonment of every promise he made on this subject before his election is hardly surprising, as he is after all a politician. What’s really surprising to me is that people think he’s a Democrat.

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