NSA Lawyer Questioned Over Cellphone Location Tracking of Americans

29/07/2011 17:44

Is the government using cellular data to track Americans as they move around the U.S.?

According to the general counsel of the National Security Agency, it may have that authority. Matthew Olsen, who is currently at the NSA and has been nominated to lead the National Counterterrorism Center, discussed the possibility at a confirmation hearing Tuesday morning in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Jin Lee/Bloomberg
 

“There are certain circumstances where that authority may exist,” he said. His comments came after Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) asked him several times whether the government has the authority to “use cell site data to track the location of Americans inside the country.”

Although Olsen acknowledged the possibility, he also said “it is a very complicated question” and that the intelligence community is working on a memo that will provide a better answer for the committee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, asked that such a memo be prepared in time for the committee’s first hearing in September, after the August recess.

The questions come after Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall (D., Colo.) wrote a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking whether the agencies he leads, including the NSA and the CIA, “have the authority to collect the geolocation information of American citizens for intelligence purposes.”

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