Yet Another Leak Shows NSA Lied About Not Being Able To Geolocate Data It Scoops Up

from the whoops dept

And… yet another leak of NSA surveillance capabilities to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald (who damn well better get a Pulitzer Prize for this) suggests pretty strongly that the NSA has directly lied, multiple times, when asked to disclose how many people it had spied on in the US. As we’ve noted for a while, the NSA has claimed that it was not possible to determine how many Americans it had data on. In a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had stated:

While it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed…

An NSA spokesperson also said that it was not possible to figure that out:

Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”

But, as Greenwald reveals, the NSA appears to have a program, called Boundless Informant (quite a name, huh) that does exactly that.

The leaks are coming fast and furious at this point, and I doubt they’re going to stop soon.

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Comments on “Yet Another Leak Shows NSA Lied About Not Being Able To Geolocate Data It Scoops Up”

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horse with no name says:

Re: Re: wait

The point is that the IP address information is common, essentially public knowledge. There is not much going on here, it’s not like the NSA suddenly knows something as a result that you couldn’t figure out yourself, given an IP address.

All of this adds up to a hill of beans. There isn’t anything really going on here, just a lot of innuendo and “oh look at this”, yet all of the piece appear to be pretty darn legal and just (gasp) efficiently handled.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: wait

Indeed, I don’t see how Boundless Informant is identifying participants or even geolocating with any more precision than any other IP address-based lookup. It seems to be precise only to the country level.

So Emmel didn’t lie, considering she qualified her denial of geolocation and identification as being something they can’t do with certainty in regard to all parties to a given communication. That leaves quite a bit of wiggle room.

Anonymous Coward says:

NSA has consistently reported ? including to Congress ? that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication.

Using careful anaylysis and some practical knowledge this means:
some people choose to use anonymous pay as you go phones, and in remote areas the phone may only see a single base station.
It is not that they do not want to identify and locate all participants in a conversation, its just that the technology, and anonymous purchases prevent them from doing so.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re:

No, all it means is that for the purposes of a court case, they are unable to be absolutely certain who all the participants in a conversation are. Remember, they are looking at “metadata” and not actual voice data, which means they also don’t know who is actually using a given device or connected to the internet at a given moment.

It doesn’t mean that they aren’t pretty sure or reasonably confident or able to perhaps deduce over time with enough data, but it’s not the same as determining with certainty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anonymous, but probably not.

What I find interesting is how quiet Microsoft have been, after all with everything written in new versions of word now automatically uploaded to a cloud, how happy are foreign (or American for that matter) companies going to be when it is discovered that the NSA and contractors can read everything?

And maybe some lawyers may be interested as well …..

anonymouse says:

The Truth!!!!

Does anyone really expect the NSA or any other organization that has been doing this to admit to anything, even to congress, seriously they are so stuck on the fact that they have the right to any data they want in the name of fighting terrorism that they honestly see themselves as above the law.
And Obama just has to reject any court case against the NSA and it goes away never to be discussed again.

They have complete control of the systems that should be protecting the citizens and they use those systems with impunity.

There is nothing anyone can do to stop this , nothing, the press will use it to gain a few more sales and viewers and that is about it. Within a month nobody will be discussing this as we move onto the next big thing, maybe an actor or actress being drunk in public or someone falling pregnant.

RubyPanther says:

Pretty stupid story

Like, duh, an IP address cannot be used to “determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication.” That is both true, and obvious. And it does not stop less-than-certain geolocation tools from being useful.

Did Greenwald unleash some sort of Stupid-Bomb on you people? If you are for or against the Patriot Act, that should have nothing to do with your understanding of geolocation capabilities, usefulness, or failings.

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