NSA secretly buying Americans’ data without a warrant

A senior senator said Thursday that the National Security Agency had secretly purchased Americans’ Internet records and used them for spying without a warrant.

Sen. Ron Wyden (Democrat from Oregon) said that the practice was a “legal grey area”, with data brokers quietly obtaining, and reselling, internet “metadata”without the consent of the users. He claimed that the NSA was trying to hide the entire thing.

The senator wrote to Avril Haynes, Director of National Intelligence. He said that the government needed a “wake up call” and called for new regulations limiting purchases to only data Americans consented to being sold.

He asked Ms. Haines also to make an inventory of the information the government has already and discard any that does not meet the standard for consent.

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He said: “The U.S. Government should not fund and legitimize a shady business whose flagrant breaches of Americans’ privacy is not only unethical but illegal.”

He released a document detailing and justifying NSA’s actions.

Gen. Nakasone stated that it acquired what it called “commercially-available information,” but the acquisitions were limited. They do not include the location data of phones that are “known to be in use in the United States” and they do not buy or utilize location data for automobiles in the U.S.

They buy data that is “not content” “where one end of the communication has an Internet Protocol address in the United States and the other side is located overseas.”

The general stated that information is critical to “the U.S. Defense Industrial Base.”

“NSA appreciates the trust Congress and the public have placed in it to perform its vital foreign intelligence and cyber missions for the American people,” wrote Gen. Nakasone.

In a separate note, Ronald S. Moultrie, the Under Secretary of Defense, defended its legality.

He wrote: “I’m not aware of any requirement under U.S. law, or judicial opinion,… for DoD to obtain a court-order in order to access or use CAI that is available to purchase by foreign adversaries, U.S. businesses and private individuals, as well as the U.S. Government.”

But Mr. Wyden says that the legal landscape has just changed.

He cited the Federal Trade Commission action taken earlier this month against an data broker. In this case, the FTC stated that the sale of location information was an invasion into the lives of consumers. According to the FTC, consumers need to be informed explicitly if data is collected to be sold to national security agencies.

Mr. Wyden stated that the same standard applied to other information obtained by the government from brokers, such as metadata. Metadata is hidden information that comes with communications. It includes the time and source.

Mr. Wyden stated that he has never encountered a broker who gives such a comprehensive warning.

Senator previously revealed that Defense Intelligence Agency purchased commercially available location data which included Americans.