Sen. Wyden Releases Documents Revealing NSA Purchases Citizens’ Internet Data

On January 25, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, requesting that “U.S. intelligence agencies only purchase data on Americans that has been obtained in a lawful manner.”

“Until recently, the data broker industry and the intelligence community’s (IC) purchase of data from these shady companies has existed in a legal gray area, which was in large part due to the secrecy surrounding the practice,” Wyden wrote. “App developers and advertising companies did not meaningfully disclose to users their sale and sharing of personal data with data brokers nor seek to obtain informed consent. The data brokers that buy and resell this data are not known to consumers and several of these companies refused to answer questions from Congress regarding the companies they buy data from and the government agencies they sell it to.”

“The secrecy around data purchases was amplified because intelligence agencies have sought to keep the American people in the dark,” the letter continued. “It took me nearly three years to clear the public release of information revealing the NSA’s purchase of domestic internet metadata.”

Wyden added that under rules from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “it is not enough for a consumer to consent to an app or website collecting such data, the consumer must be told and agree to their data being sold to ‘government contractors for national security purposes.'”

The Senator then attached a letter from NSA Director General Paul Nakasone dated December 11, 2023, that confirmed collected data “may include information associated with electronic devices being used outside – and, in certain cases, inside – the United States.”

Wyden also questioned the legality of a White House surveillance program that allows law enforcement to access Americans’ phone records and called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to publish information on Data Analytical Services (DAS), formerly known as the Hemisphere Project.

The move comes as the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) paid AT&T over $5 million for Americans’ records since 2009 in an effort Wyden believes to be illegal.

“I write to request that you clear for public release additional information about the Hemisphere Project,” Wyden wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “This is a long-running dragnet surveillance program in which the White House pays AT&T to provide all federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies the ability to request often-warrantless searches of trillions of domestic phone records.”

The senator explained that the Hemisphere Project’s funds are delivered to AT&T through an “obscure grand program,” allowing the program to “skip an otherwise mandatory federal privacy review.”

American Faith previously reported that the FBI had a contract for $76,450 with Team Cymru, a company that collects online data.

The FBI used Team Cymru to obtain “NetFlow,” a protocol for gathering IP information and network data.