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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.