NSA Admits to Tracking Americans Via Cell Phones
July 27, 2011
The general counsel of the National Security Agency testified to a Senate hearing yesterday that he believes the agency has the authority to track Americans via cell phones.
“There are certain circumstances where that authority may exist,” said Matthew Olsen the current nominee to head up the National Counterterrorism Center.
Olsen made the comments to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) repeatedly asked if the government has the authority to “use cell site data to track the location of Americans inside the country.”
Olsen added that the reason his answer was not definitive was that “it is a very complicated question”, assuring the committee that the NSA would provide more information in a future memo.
Sen. Wyden recently wrote (full letter below) to the Director of National Intelligence demanding to know whether the CIA and the NSA “have the authority to collect the geolocation information of American citizens for intelligence purposes.”
“If yes, please explain the specific statutory basis for this authority,” the letter, co signed by Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) states.
The Senators also requested information on how many Americans have been monitored under authority granted by 2008 legislation amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “Have any apparently law-abiding Americans had their communications collected by the government?” the letter asks.
Two months ago Wyden expressed concern that the law relating to surveillance is unclear. “The law is being secretly interpreted by the executive branch” Wyden noted.
Along with Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), Wyden has introduced a joint bill that would force any government agency to secure a search warrant and show probable cause before tracking the location of any American.