NSA tracks 5 billion cell phone location records daily, new documents from Edward Snowden say

By Daniel S Levine,

The National Security Agency has been tracking the location records of nearly 5 billion cell phones around the world, according to new documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published today.

The documents were published by the Washinton Post, which also spoke with U.S. intelligence officials about the records, which gave the NSA the ability to track the locations of suspects and who they speak with. New projects created by the agency allows them to take this data and use it as a surveillance tool.

According to USA Today, the NSA did say it is not specifically targeting the locations of Americans, but picks up their location data “incidentally,” which it considers a lawful practice.

An NSA official who spoke to the Post anonymously said that the location data comes from cables that connect mobile networks internationally, serving both U.S. and foreign cell phones. Data is also gathered from the millions of Americans who take their cell phones overseas.

“There is no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cell phone location information about cell phones in the United States,” Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the Post. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence oversees the NSA.

ACLU attorney Catherine Crump was quick to slam this latest leak, calling it “staggering” to see that such programs could be in place without public debate. “The paths that we travel every day can reveal an extraordinary amount about our political, professional, and intimate relationships," Crump said. "The dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of cellphones flouts our international obligation to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans alike.”

The last round of Snowden documents revealed that the NSA spied on pornography habits of suspects to hurt their credibility.

image: Wikimedia Commons


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