Reports: NSA gets under 30 percent of phone data (Update)

Feb 07, 2014 by Stephen Braun
Civil liberties activists hold a rally against surveillance of US citizens at the Justice Department in Washington, DC on January 17, 2014

The National Security Agency collects less than 30 percent of calling data from Americans despite the agency's massive daily efforts to sweep up the bulk of U.S. phone records, two U.S. newspapers reported Friday.

Citing anonymous officials and sources, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal both said the NSA's phone data collection has had a steep drop-off since 2006. According to the newspapers, the government has been unable to keep pace since then with a national surge in cellphone usage and dwindling landline use by American consumers.

The Post said the NSA takes in less than 30 percent of all call data; the Journal said it is about or less than 20 percent. In either case, the figures are far below the amount of phone data collected in 2006, when the government extracted nearly all of U.S. calling records, both newspapers reported. NSA officials intend to press for court authorization to broaden their coverage of cellphone providers to return the government to near-total coverage of Americans' calling data, the newspapers said.

The lowered estimates for the sweep of government surveillance would be significant because federal judges, members of government task forces and media accounts based on documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden have all described the NSA's bulk metadata collection as sweeping in millions of records from American phone users. Lowered estimates could be cited by officials to alleviate privacy and civil liberties fears, but they could also raise questions about the government's rationale for the program—that the NSA's use of all Americans' phone records are critical in preventing potential terrorist plots.

National security officials have said that the collection of bulk data is essential to national security because it provides a massive pool of calling records and other metadata that NSA analysts can quickly search to pinpoint calling patterns showing evidence of potential terror threats. Congressional critics have pressed efforts to end the bulk phone data sweeps, and two panels of experts have urged President Barack Obama to end the program because they see little counter-terrorism advantages and say the program intrudes on personal liberties.

Obama has committed to ending government storage of phone records but still wants the NSA to have full access to the data. NSA and DNI officials declined to confirm or discuss the reports.

Civil liberties groups said they were not reassured by the reports, saying the government still intends to gather phone records from all American users. "To accept their legal reasoning is to accept that they will eventually collect everything, even if they're not doing so already," said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Verizon and AT&T said last December that they would provide figures this year on data requested by the government in law enforcement and intelligence investigations. But the Journal reported last year that several major cellphone entities including Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile were not part of the NSA's bulk metadata collection. It is not clear why cellphone providers would not be covered by the NSA legal authority.

Intelligence officials are already moving to alter the structure of the phone surveillance program to conform to changes Obama ordered last month.

On Friday, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, posted a government website appeal to private companies to develop ways for the government to continue its phone record searches without storing a massive inventory of phone data. The posting, on FedBizOpps.gov, said the DNI is "investigating whether existing commercially available capabilities can provide for a new approach to the government's telephony metadata collection program."

The Associated Press reported last month that the DNI is already funding five research teams across the country in an effort to develop an encrypted search technique that could be used by the NSA to securely scan phone databanks held elsewhere.

In a related development, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington on Thursday authorized two major changes in the phone collection program that Obama committed to in January. The court agreed to require judicial approval for each internal NSA search of telephone data for terrorist connections and it will narrow the numbers of American phone users whose records can be scanned during each search, the DNI reported.

In the first instance, the NSA now must provide judges with "reasonable, articulable suspicion" for each search of phone data for terrorist connections. That hurdle can be lifted during national emergencies. And the court ruling now scales back the NSA's use of a "three-hop" system in its searches—allowing the agency to scan the records of those in phone contact with a terror suspect and a second wave of people in touch with the first group, but no longer allowing searches of a third wave of phone contacts.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday named two new judges to the secret court. Roberts said that U.S. District Judges James E. Boasberg and Richard C. Tallman joined the court on Jan. 27. Boasberg was appointed by Obama, Tallman by President Bill Clinton. Their appointment will likely do little to dampen criticism that the majority of FISA judges picked by Roberts are Republicans.

Explore further: US spy court: NSA to keep collecting phone records

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VINDOC
not rated yet Feb 07, 2014
This article is so full of lies and disinformation it makes you want to puke. The NSA is listening to this post. I can prove it with four words.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 08, 2014
The National Security Agency collects less than 30 percent of calling data from Americans

And this is 'good' exactly how? If the NSA were to collect 0 percent then that would be acceptable. Anything beyond that is wiretapping without a warrant.

as sweeping in millions of records from American phone users.

Even 30 percent is 'milions of records per day'. And since we'tre talking "unnamed sources" I'm calling BS on that number anyhow.

investigating whether existing commercially available capabilities can provide for a new approach to the government's telephony metadata collection program.

yay: Private companies doing the illegal stuff and then handing it off to the NSA (and probably selling to third parties along the way) is SO much more legal. Great!

and a second wave

So if you know a guy who know s a guy who MIGHT be a terrorist affiliate you might want to start packing for an american gualg. 'Free world' my posterior.
dogbert
not rated yet Feb 08, 2014
Lowered estimates could be cited by officials to alleviate privacy and civil liberties fears


Yes, we are supposed to be reassured that the NSA is only collecting about 1/3 of the information we thought they were collecting.

Each and every one of them is a violation of the fourth amendment to the constitution. They are continuing to violate the constitution millions of times per day and have no intention of stopping. They intend to increase their illegal activities.

Where is congress?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2014
And this is 'good' exactly how? If the NSA were to collect 0 percent then that would be acceptable. Anything beyond that is wiretapping without a warrant.
No they are required to get court approval. But as to your question, it is good because it is less than the 40% that German authorities are allowed to collect. With court approval of course.
Each and every one of them is a violation of the fourth amendment to the constitution
Courts as well as members of the legislative and executive branches of our govt have officially declared that this is not only LEGAL but NECESSARY. Again, just because you refuse to accept reality doesn't mean it actually changes.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2014
Private companies doing the illegal stuff
The massive voids in what you know continue to shock me like potholes in Cleveland streets. Business and advertising already collect this sort of metadata info.
discouragedinMI
not rated yet Feb 08, 2014
The government can and will declare something IT does as legal. You actually trust a secret court, a review committee appointed by the President, and the President to tell you what is legal or not legal. It is only one more backwards step for humanity.

Also, it's not the collection of metadata that bothers me but rather storage and the secrecy. A secret court with secret hearings and faint promises they will not use it to violate rights. They already violate the rights of humans at airport check points and points of entry into the US everyday while many other nations watch in disbelief. However, don't let me stop you. Have another sip of juice.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2014
Also, it's not the collection of metadata that bothers me but rather storage and the secrecy. A secret court with secret hearings and faint promises they will not use it to violate rights
'Secret courts' operate under the same laws and are staffed by the same people as 'public courts'. The only difference is that you and your Taliban buddies don't have the chance to learn anything that would compromise our national security.

What - you aren't buddies with the Taliban? Well you don't seem to care whether they find out what we're doing to defeat them or not, so it kind of seems like you care more about them winning than us.

The Taliban - you know, these guys?

"indulged in the "frenzied killing of shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers". Women and girls were raped, and thousands of civilians, mainly ethnic Hazaras, were massacred"
http://lubpak.com...ves/5150

-and who would just love to do the same things to you and your kids?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2014
The Taliban - your best friends.

"the Taliban and their allies were responsible for 75% of Afghan civilian casualties in 2010, 80% in 2011, and 80% in 2012.

"Several Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders ran a network of human trafficking, abducting women and selling them into sex slavery in Afghanistan and Pakistan... During one Taliban and Al-Qaeda offensive in 1999... more than 600 women were kidnapped."

-and nuclear Pakistanis best friend.

""Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude," the report said. The report also linked high-level members of the Pakistani government with the Taliban... "Without a change in Pakistani behaviour it will be difficult if not impossible for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency."

-How soon do we see nukes in the hands of Islamist extremists like your friends the Taliban?

"Bin Laden was able to forge an alliance between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda."
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2014
"and a second wave"
"So if you know a guy who know s a guy who MIGHT be a terrorist affiliate you might want to start packing for an american gualg. 'Free world' my posterior."

No, Antialias. If you know a guy who might be a terrorist, don't be surprised if NSA is monitoring your communications. I am glad that NSA is checking into the friends of suspected terrorists. If you are not yourself involved in terrorism you will not go to an "American gulag".