Mark Warner Confirms USA Freedumber Expands Surveillance

The Senate Intelligence Committee is in the middle of its Snowden Day hearing on the USA Freedumber Act. I’ll have more to say about it later (spoiler alert: the hearing has proven that the overseers don’t understand the program they’re currently overseeing).

The highlight was, surprisingly, when Mark Warner questioned the government witnesses.

Warner (who used to be a telecom mogul) got the government witnesses to concede to two key points.

First, Warner noted that under the new scheme, every telecom would be subject to government requests. As a result, he said, “On factual basis, the number of calls scrutinized universe will be exponentially larger.” Deputy Attorney General James Cole at first tried to prevaricate. But then admitted that more records would be exposed.

Then, Warner noted that telecoms have to keep cell location, and that the current Section 215 program does not obtain cell location. He asked if the NSA could use or obtain cell location going forward. Cole did not deny that; he admitted that sometimes it is very helpful.

Thanks to Mark Warner for getting these two details on the record, as I have been arguing both were true, but now can confirm they are.


Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. edge says:

    Interesting point by Mr. Woods – Verizon does not only have records of calls to and from Verizon customers. It also has records of long distance calls that transit it’s network without terminating there.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    Do the wireless providers need, for technical reasons, to retain cell location information, after a call is completed? If not, then theoretically they could discard it, and it would not be available to the Gummamint. Of course, that would require them going against the wishes of their Master And Commander, which is doubtful. But I would like to know, technically, can they dump that information?

    • edge says:

      There are some good reasons for hanging on to data. It allows them to diagnose connection or load issues that arise. It also allows them to plan where to add (or reduce) infrastructure. How long it’s useful for or if that usefulness decreases faster than the cost to store increasing amounts of records, i don’t know.

      • P J Evans says:

        They don’t need the calls for that, or even the metadata.
        (I worked at a utility where we had load-modeling software, and what was used were just the load-descriptive numbers: so much for this date along this route, this much along this other route, and so on.)

  3. lefty665 says:

    Amazing what a re-election campaign can generate. These are about Warner’s only public comments aside from introducing legislation to honor hardworking, patriotic members of the intelligence community.
    Where the f*** have you been for the last 5 1/2 years Mark? Rhetorical question. Sucking up to his BFF Saxby Chambliss is the answer. Chambliss beat Democrat, Vietnam veteran, and triple amputee Max Cleland by accusing him of collaborating with Osama and Saddam, and Warner calls himself a Democrat.
    I’d like to thank Warner for the questions, but it’s all a sham. He’ll go back to sleep after the first Tuesday in November. However, if Repub Ed Gillespie gets some traction in the polls we may actually get something useful out of Warner in the interim.

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