Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

September 27, 2013

Official sidesteps queries on cellphone locations

WASHINGTON — The head of the National Security Agency sidestepped questions Thursday from a senator about whether the NSA has ever used Americans cellphone signals to collect information on their whereabouts that would allow tracking of the movements of individual callers.

Asked twice by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect such data, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander answered both times by reading from a letter provided to senators who had asked the same question last summer. He also cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, “What I don’t want to do ... is put out in an unclassified forum anything that’s classified.”

Wyden promised to keep asking.

“I believe this is something the American people have a right to know, whether NSA has ever collected or made plans to collect cell site information,” Wyden said.

The testy exchange at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing illustrates the wider tension that has grown between the public and the U.S. intelligence community, following disclosures by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, about the extensive NSA collection of telephone and email records of millions of Americans.

The panel’s bipartisan leadership used the hearing to promote their version of legislation to change the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act. The lawmakers seek to trim NSA’s authority to access and analyze U.S. phone records and provide new protections to Americans’ privacy. They also want to broaden the government’s spying powers to allow monitoring of terror suspects who travel to the U.S. after being tracked overseas by the NSA.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the committee, said the legislation would “strictly limit access to the ... phone metadata records, expressly prohibit the collection of the content of phone calls,” and limit the amount of time such U.S. phone call data could be kept.

Such records show the date and length of calls, and the numbers dialed.

But Feinstein’s proposed legislation would not stop the bulk collection of telephone and email records. A separate bipartisan group of four senators, including Wyden, unveiled legislation earlier this week to end those bulk collections.

Feinstein and the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, defended U.S. intelligence efforts, as did Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — insisting that while they collect U.S. bulk records, they do not listen in on individual Americans’ phone calls or read their emails without a court order.

Alexander and Clapper spoke of wanting to cooperate with suggested changes in order to win back the public’s trust.

Clapper told the committee he was willing to consider limiting both how U.S. telephone and email data collected by NSA is used, and the amount of time it is stored. He said he’s also open to other changes, such as appointing an independent official to oppose the government in hearings before the FISA court, the secret federal court that considers all government surveillance requests.

But Alexander’s exchanges with Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., showed the tension between the intelligence community and a bipartisan group of lawmakers who think NSA’s powers need to be drastically cut.

“Is it the goal of the NSA to collect the phone records of all Americans?” Udall asked.

“Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it. Yes,” Alexander replied.

But Alexander said the cellphone site data — it shows the whereabouts of cellphone callers, and enables an analyst to track where they go — is different.

“The court has said hold off if you want to do cell-site data or plan to do that, you have to come back to the court,” Alexander said. “Did I answer those right?”

Alexander’s reply was an apparent reference to Wyden’s much-publicized exchange with Clapper earlier this year over whether U.S. intelligence agencies had gathered the telephone records of millions of Americans.

Clapper said no, but then had to apologize later when Snowden’s leaks revealed the bulk collection of U.S. telephone records and email data.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results