More shenanigans from the National Security Agency. Surprised? You shouldn't be, and expect more revelations about national intelligence agencies going too far in conducting surveillance.
It was revealed last week that in 2010 and 2011, the NSA tested a program in which it gathered bulk data via cell towers about the location of Americans' cellphones. It was already known that the agency collects data about domestic calls. Now it's known that the NSA played with the idea of tracking where cell calls are made from.
Such information obviously could be greatly valuable to investigators. It's also greatly intrusive.
James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting that the NSA collected cell location information only "in order to test the ability of its systems to handle the data format" and that it was never used for intelligence analysis.
Are you reassured? Don't be.
American intelligence agencies for decades have proved themselves incapable of operating within the rules. There are still many questions about the cell location program, such as whether the agency has stored the information it collected and how many phones were targeted. Sen. Ron Wyden, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, warned that there's more about the program that Americans have yet to learn. The NSA last week said it is not "receiving cell-site location data and has no current plans to do so."
"No current plans to do so" hardly rules out future plans to do so.
Members of Congress should act now, therefore, to bar such plans. There is no legitimate reason that law-abiding Americans should allow their whereabouts to be monitored and recorded by the government.