Senator Wyden’s office asked the Department of Defense (DoD), which includes various military and intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), for detailed information about its data purchasing practices after Motherboard revealed special forces were buying location data. The responses also touched on military or intelligence use of internet browsing and other types of data, and prompted Wyden to demand more answers specifically about warrantless spying on American citizens.
Some of the answers the DoD provided were given in a form that means Wyden’s office cannot legally publish specifics on the surveillance; one answer in particular was classified. In the letter Wyden is pushing the DoD to release the information to the public.
“Are any DoD components buying and using without a court order internet metadata, including ‘netflow’ and Domain Name System (DNS) records,” the question read, and asked whether those records were about “domestic internet communications (where the sender and recipient are both U.S. IP addresses)” and “internet communications where one side of the communication is a U.S. IP address and the other side is located abroad.”
Netflow data creates a picture of traffic flow and volume across a network. DNS records relate to when a user looks up a particular domain, and a system then converts that text into the specific IP address for a computer to understand; essentially a form of internet browsing history.
Wyden’s new letter to Austin urging the DoD to release that answer and others says “Information should only be classified if its unauthorized disclosure would cause damage to national security. The information provided by DoD in response to my questions does not meet that bar.”
“Other than DIA, are any DoD components buying and using without a court order location data collected from phones located in the United States?” one of Wyden’s questions reads. The answer to that is one that Wyden is urging the DoD to release.
The DIA memo said the agency believes it does not require a warrant to obtain such information. Following this, Wyden also asked the DoD which other DoD components have adopted a similar interpretation of the law. One response said that each component is itself responsible to make sure they follow the law.
Wyden is currently proposing a new piece of legislation called The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act which would force some agencies to obtain a warrant for location and other data.