By Spencer Ackerman. The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosed.
John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.
“Hops” refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.
Inglis did not elaborate, nor did the members of the House panel – many of whom expressed concern and even anger at the NSA – explore the legal and privacy implications of the breadth of “three-hop” analysis.
But Inglis and other intelligence and law enforcement officials testifying before the committee said that the NSA’s ability to query the data follows rules set by the secret Fisa court, although about two dozen NSA officials determine for themselves when those criteria are satisified. Read more from this story HERE.
By Stephen Dinan. The lawmaker who wrote the USA Patriot Act said Wednesday that, as it stands, the House will never renew the provisions that the Obama administration uses to collect Americans’ phone records, meaning the government’s surveillance program will be cut off some time next year.
Both Democrats and Republicans told top administration officials that they reject President Obama’s claim that the law allows the intelligence community to collect the phone numbers, time, date and duration of calls made by Americans, and they said Mr. Obama needs to change the way he is running the program if he wants to keep it intact.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the Wisconsin Republican who was chief author of the Patriot Act in 2001, said Congress specifically tried to limit the law’s uses when it renewed the provisions under Section 215 of the act that allow the government to collect data from businesses without obtaining a warrant.
In that renewal Congress added in the word “relevant” to try to limit what the government was pursuing. But Mr. Sensenbrenner said the intelligence community has expanded, not limited, its data-gathering efforts after Congress tried to reel them in.
“Section 215 expires at the end of 2015 and unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed. There are not the votes in the House to renew Section 215,” he said. “It’s got to be changed and you have to change how you operate Section 215. Otherwise, in a year or a year and a half, you’re not going to have it anymore.” Read more from this story HERE.
By Brian Hughes. Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted on Wednesday that an already frosty relationship between his government and the United States would not be damaged if Russia granted asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
“Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are much more important than the squabbles around the activities of the security services,” Putin told reporters in eastern Siberia.
“We warned Mr. Snowden that any of his activities that cause damage to U.S.-Russian relations are unacceptable to us.”
Snowden, the former government contractor who disclosed details about U.S. phone and Internet surveillance programs, applied for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday. A lawyer representing Snowden told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Wednesday that the ex-CIA official could leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in the next few days.
The Obama administration has repeatedly warned the Putin regime not to give Snowden refuge since he faces a trio of espionage charges back on U.S. soil. If his application were approved, Snowden could stay in Russia for up to a year. Read more from this story HERE.