NSA Purchasing Americans’ Data Without Warrant


(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., revealed in a letter published Thursday that the outgoing director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Paul Nakasone, told him last month that the NSA purchases internet data on Americans in bulk and without a warrant.

“As you know, U.S. intelligence agencies are purchasing personal data about Americans that would require a court order if the government demanded it from communications companies … In addition, the National Security Agency (NSA) is buying Americans’ domestic internet metadata,” Wyden said in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Attached to Wyden’s letter is correspondence with Nakasone, who confirmed the NSA’s data purchases to him last month.

“NSA acquires various types of [commercially available information] for foreign intelligence, cybersecurity and other authorized mission purposes, to include enhancing its signal intelligence and cybersecurity missions,” he told Wyden.

“This may include information associated with electronic devices being used outside—and, in certain cases, inside—the United States. However, NSA does not buy and use location data collected from phones known to be used in the U.S. either with or without a court order.”

Wyden’s information about the NSA’s bulk commercial data purchases is the latest revelation in an ongoing investigation by the senator.

Last year, ODNI Director Haines released a report confirming that U.S. spy agencies are collecting vast amounts of social media, cell phone and other commercial data.

Examples cited in the report include the Defense Intelligence Agency—the Pentagon’s main intelligence agency—having a system that buys geolocation data around the world.

The FBI also has a contract with the online intelligence firm ZeroFox for “social media alerting,” and the U.S. Navy has a contract with Sayari Analytics, Inc. for access to its database, which purportedly “contains tens of thousands of previously-unidentified specific nodes, facilities and key people related to U.S.-sanctioned actors,” according to the report.

The DHS, meanwhile, has a corporate tool that allows it to analyze companies around the globe and their relationships to various subsidiaries.

Wyden and a few other members of Congress are attempting to combat these seemingly illegal data purchases with legislation.

The Protect Liberty Act, which enforces the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment warrant requirement when the government inspects Americans’ purchased data, was introduced in the House by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., last month.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.