Latest Declassified NSA Records Show NSA Believes It Can Spy On Everyone's Location Based On Existing Approvals

from the of-course-it-does dept

James Clapper has declassified another batch of documents on the NSA activities. We’ll probably write about a few of them, but let’s start with one that’s getting a lot of initial attention: the document that discusses the “test” of collecting location info from the telcos based on where your mobile phone was. The short version? Do you know where you were on April 26, 2010? Because the NSA probably does. It had already been revealed that the NSA had run “a test” of obtaining location info from the telcos. This document, which is a memo from the NSA to the Senate Intelligence Committee is just explaining some of the details, with this being the key one:

In regards to the mobility testing effort, NSA consulted with DOJ before implementing this testing effort. Based upon our description of the proposed mobility data (cell site location information) testing plans, DOJ advised in February 2010 that obtaining the data for the described testing purposes was permissable based upon the current language of the Court’s BR FISA order requiring the production of ‘all call detail records.’ It is our understanding that DOJ also orally advised the FISC, via its staff, that we had obtained a limited set of test data sampling of cellular mobility data (cell site location information) pursuant to the Court-authorized program and that we were exploring the possibility of acquiring such mobility under the BR FISA program in the near future based upon the authority currently granted by the Court.

The key takeaway here: the NSA believes that the current FISA approval of dragnet collection of metadata on every phone call includes permission to track location data as well, even though it doesn’t currently do so. The “BR FISA order” means “business records” which is what Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is sometimes called. The fact that the NSA didn’t seem to think it was necessary to check with the FISA Court before running this test, just to make sure it was actually allowed is rather telling.

Separately, can anyone explain why the redacted portions of this document are redacted? It makes no sense. They redact the number of location records that were obtained. I can’t see how that number could possibly need to remain classified once the existence of such a test was declassified. The only reason I can think of to keep that classified is to avoid embarrassment over the large number of people whose location info was scooped up. Similarly, they redact the name of the lawyer who wrote the memo. Again, the only reason I can think to do this is to protect him from embarrassment and public mocking. Such a public mocking might seem unfair, but I don’t see how it fits in with a reasonable classification category.

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Comments on “Latest Declassified NSA Records Show NSA Believes It Can Spy On Everyone's Location Based On Existing Approvals”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: To be fair...

Or in other words, tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands of people’s locations were collected in the check.

“We spied on the locations of hundreds of thousands of US citizens, without permission from the courts, just to see if we could.” Is not the sort of specific headline they wish to see.

Anonymous Coward says:

and yet again, we have a ‘secret interpretation’ used by an agency, an interpretation that only those who want to bend, to stretch and to misshapen laws to suit what they want to do. if the law didn’t say something that was wanted, it should not have been altered in this way on the whim of someone of power just to be able to do something that they know is illegal unless the meaning is changed so as to be unrecognizable!
had any lawyer tried to do this for a private client in a trial, he would have been shot down, then ripped up for ass wipes! the judge would have jumped on him/her with the ferocity of a pack of tigers and, at least, held them in contempt. this shows that it was not only the NSA at fault but the DoJ and the court(s) as well!
there needs to be specific changes to prevent this from happening in the future with severe consequences against anyone trying it on!!

out_of_the_blue says:

BUT now even Mozilla gets in on TRACKING YOU!

Yot, Google-funded Mozilla is now openly part of the spy grid:

Mozilla goes where Google fears to tread with geolocation service
Privacy? We’re keen on it now but might let you opt out in future

“Geolocation lookup is a very useful service to provide to users. There’s no public data set to provide this service.”

Tracking your location continually is a service to you, see? You should be grateful!

The phony deal that evil people (and gullible fools) try to force on us: You can’t have the benefits of technology unless give up all privacy.


Rapnel (profile) says:

I love how “business records” auto-fucking-magically entitles GOVERNMENT to ALL of them. Just because business.

Do you do business? Well, so do I and my business is government therefore all your business is at my disposal. Reasons? Right, like we need reasons. We’re authority and our authority is over you, just like we’ve always wanted. Tada! How you like me now, bitches?

The free world tossed into the drink because a bunch of legal assholes translates your business into their right. A government, with rights above and beyond the rights of the governed, that’s fantastic. Fuck you all you bunch of fearful, selfish, power hungry fucks.

Lock the doors and burn it down. God will protect them.

Anonymous Coward says:

The US government apparatus is so rotten is unbelievable.

In every area, in every sector top to bottom you can see the same shameful modus operandis in place.

Now if you so happen to work for the government and you are not in charge of anything, expect to be treated just like the rest of it have no doubts you will be left to hang dry someday.

This is probably what Snowden saw in his times working for the type of people that most would feel sick to be around.

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