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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: business records, fisa, fisc, location data, nsa, nsa surveillance, patriot act, section 215


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2013 @ 8:22am

    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!!

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.