U.S. spy agency gathers data on cellphone locations globally: report

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 4, 2013 6:28pm EST

Antennas of the former National Security Agency (NSA) listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill, or Devil's Mountain in Berlin, November 5, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Antennas of the former National Security Agency (NSA) listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill, or Devil's Mountain in Berlin, November 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Security Agency gathers nearly 5 billion records a day on the location of mobile telephones worldwide, including those of some Americans, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing sources including documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The records feed a database that stores information about the locations of "at least hundreds of millions of devices," the newspaper said, according to the top-secret documents and interviews with intelligence officials.

The report said the NSA does not target Americans' location data intentionally, but acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellular telephones "incidentally."

One manager told the newspaper the NSA obtained "vast volumes" of location data by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones.

U.S. intelligence officials contacted by Reuters declined to comment on the Post report.

The article cited officials as saying the programs that collect and analyze location data are lawful and meant solely to develop intelligence on foreign targets.

U.S. intelligence agencies' extensive collection of telephone and Internet data has been subject to scrutiny since Snowden began leaking information in June showing that surveillance was far more extensive than most Americans had realized.

Facing a public outcry and concern that programs are targeting average Americans as well as international terrorism suspects, Republican and Democratic members of Congress are writing legislation to clamp down on the data collection and increase public access to information about it.

Advocates responded to the Post report by calling on Congress to take up legislation to reform NSA data-gathering programs.

"How many revelations of NSA surveillance will it take for Congress to act? Today's news is the latest startling blow to the right to privacy," Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA's Security and Human Rights, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Mark Hosenball)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (13)
davis420 wrote:
Hello! Hello! Is there anybody in there, is there anyone at home.

Dec 04, 2013 7:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
que wrote:
It would be a total blessing if these folks would use this information to close down the ” Hi this is Rachel or Ann from Card member Services” sites and give us taxpayers a REAL reason to support this invasive behavior. Listen up you LISTENERS and PROVE your worth the mega bucks you cost us!

Dec 04, 2013 7:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
edgyinchina wrote:
Frankly…. I don’t care if the NSA collects the data, the location, or even listens to every phone on the planet…. As long as they do not collect data, the location or listen to any phone owned or operated by an American citizen – unless they have obtained a proper warrant in a proper (not-a-secret) court….

Dec 04, 2013 7:14pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus