News / USA

NSA Claims it Has No Program to Collect Cell Phone Metadata

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013.
National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013.
Reuters
The U.S. National Security Agency has tested its ability to collect Americans' cellular telephone location data but does not have a program to collect that information, NSA director General Keith Alexander said on Wednesday.
 
Alexander told a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on the government's electronic eavesdropping that the NSA received data samples in 2010 and 2011 to test its ability to handle such information, but the data were never used for any other purposes.
 
“This may be something that is a future requirement for the country, but it is not right now,” he told the committee.
 
U.S. intelligence agencies' extensive collection of telephone and Internet data has been subject to scrutiny since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking information in June showing that surveillance was far more extensive than most Americans had realized.
 
Facing a public outcry, Republican and Democratic members of Congress are writing legislation to clamp down on the data collection and increase public access to information about it.
 
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary panel's chairman, said at the hearing that he is working on a bill that would tighten oversight of the government surveillance programs.
 
Among other things, Leahy's program would end bulk data collection under Section 215 of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which requires companies to turn over business records if a government request for them is approved by a secret intelligence court.
 
“I find the legal justification for this bulk collection to be strained at best, and the classified list of cases involving Section 215 to be unconvincing,” Leahy said.
 
National Security
 
Intelligence agencies, and many members of Congress who strongly support their efforts, staunchly defend the data collection plans as essential for national security.
 
The Senate Intelligence committee is working on its own legislation addressing the eavesdropping issue, which would not go as far as Leahy's proposal. The intelligence panel is not seeking to stop the bulk data collection.
 
Leahy's legislation would also strengthen judicial review by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and require more oversight of the programs.
 
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a leading advocate for privacy rights, asked Alexander about the cellular location data during a Senate Intelligence Committee last month.
 
Wyden has blasted the intelligence chiefs in the past for what he sees as dishonest answers during committee hearings. He said after Wednesday's testimony that he did not think Alexander had answered the question as completely as he could.
 
“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,” he said in a statement.
 
At the hearing, Alexander also denied a New York Times report on Saturday that intelligence agencies tracked Americans' social media data to see whether they had terrorist connections.
 
The Senate Intelligence Committee had been scheduled to begin debating amendments to its legislation on Thursday, but that was delayed amid the government shutdown caused by Congress' budget impasse.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More