NSA had test project to collect data on Americans’ cellphone locations, director says

The Washington Post reports: The National Security Agency began a test project in 2010 to collect data on ordinary Americans’ cellphone locations, but later discontinued it because it had no “operational value,” the agency’s director said Wednesday.

In response to questioning at a Senate hearing, Gen. Keith Alexander said that the secret effort ended in 2011 and that the data collected were never available for intelligence analysis purposes.

“This may be something that is a future requirement for the country, but it is not right now,” given that the FBI is able to gather the location of suspects’ cellphones by obtaining warrants from a court, Alexander told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The disclosure came just a week after Alexander declined to answer whether the NSA had ever sought the authority to obtain such data. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), an Intelligence Committee member who has been pressing this issue for at least two years, suggested Wednesday that officials were still withholding significant information.

“After years of stonewalling on whether the government has ever tracked or planned to track the location of law abiding Americans through their cell phones, once again, the intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret — even when the truth would not compromise national security,” Wyden said in a statement. [Continue reading…]

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