NSA conducted test on identifying US cell phone locations

The NSA reportedly conducted a test "pilot project" that involved the use of collecting bulk data and using it to identify the location of cellphones located in the United States. The government agency elected not to use the program for the time being, but could do so under a Patriot Act provision, Section 215, a legal means for the NSA to carry out some of its other activities.

The information comes from The New York Times, which says it has received a draft of an answer prepared for Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who addressed a Senate Judiciary Committee today. The draft answered an anticipated question about the program, preparing the director with the information needed in the event he was questioned about it.

According to the Times, this NSA project has been declassified, but has not been made available to the public. In the draft the company acquired, the "answer" said in part: "In 2010 and 2011 N.S.A. received samples in order to test the ability of its systems to handle the data format, but that data was not used for any other purpose and was never available for intelligence analysis purposes."

The declassification doesn't include all the details, however, according to a statement submitted by Senator Ron Wyden, who said that "once again, the intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret — even when the truth would not compromise national security." The Times also spoke to an unnamed person said to be a US official familiar with the matter.

According to that source, the NSA testing was intended to determine how cell phone location information would work in the NSA's system, with the project testing real time data. None of that information was used as part of an investigation, said the source, but there's no word on whether the agency has held on to the information it collected, nor how many American citizens had their location data used as part of the tests.

SOURCE: The New York Times