NSA official cites ‘stop and frisk’ in effort to explain searches of phone records

McClatchy reports: The general counsel of the National Security Agency on Monday compared the agency’s telephone metadata collection program to the highly controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice used by law enforcement officers, saying the agency uses that same standard to choose which phone numbers to query in its database.

“It’s effectively the same standard as stop-and-frisk,” Rajesh De said in an attempt to explain the evidentiary use of “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to identify which phone numbers to target from the agency’s huge database of stored cellphone records.

De made the comment during a rare hearing of an obscure government body, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress created in 2004 to oversee the government’s expanded intelligence collection operations but which until Monday had never held a substantive hearing.

De’s comparison was perhaps unfortunate. Stop and frisk, after all, is the subject of its own string of controversies. A federal judge ruled in August that the New York City Police Department had used racial profiling in its stops and disproportionately targeted blacks and Latinos. Last month, a video of a Philadelphia police officer stopping and frisking a young black male went viral on YouTube. Complaints about stop and frisk have reached a crescendo among civil liberties groups. The American Civil Liberties Union recently said the practices “raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights.”

Sensing that De may have opened a new door of debate, Robert Litt, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, noted that the NSA’s dive into phone metadata, which includes numbers called and the length of calls, is “considerably less” intrusive than a physical search. [Continue reading…]

Hmmm… Less intrusive? Would that be in the same sense as House Intel Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers’ claim that “you can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated, right?”?

I guess one could say a pick-pocket isn’t intrusive if he manages to steal your wallet but you don’t realize you were robbed.

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