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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs