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  (Source: AP)
WSJ report cites sources close to agency saying holes in interception are filled by data grabs at a lower level

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, sources close to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) warn about a potential "blind spot" in their phone record (aka "telephony metadata") scheme that allows them to track the call records and locations of Americans on a daily basis.

I. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless Make Spying on Americans Trickier...

The source states that T-Mobile's foreign ownership (T-Mobile is owned primarily by Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE)) and Verizon Wireless's foreign co-ownership (UK-based Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD) has a 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless) made seizing phone records under the Oct. 2001 USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act slightly harder.  

Both companies reportedly at times refused to participate in the program, although U.S. Verizon Wireless parent company Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) did turn in information on its land lines, which it solely serves.  And reportedly the U.S. government did not challenge theirt waivering cooperation.

Obama spying
Foreign co-owned carriers have reportedly been less than enthusiastic about Bush and Obama administration spying. [Image Source: AP]

But don't worry -- says the source -- Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile customers are still able to be monitored anyways.  Most of that traffic on Verizon or T-Mobile is at some point routed through connections owned by solely-U.S.-owned telecoms like AT&T, Inc. (T) or Sprint Nextel Corp. (S).  Thanks to this wonderful routing, the source assures, approximately 99 percent of phone traffic in the U.S. is monitored by the NSA.

II. ...But When There's a Will, Big Brother Has a Way 

A pending acquisition of Sprint might seemingly shift that balance if Japan's Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) wins in its bid for most of the U.S. carrier.  But it will likely have little effect.

T-Mobile or smaller U.S. carriers often fill in holes in their coverage by allowing customers to roam onto solely-U.S. owned networks like AT&T.  This is one spot where the NSA can intercept the phone data.

And ultimately the NSA can always monitor at an even lower level, if necessary -- the high speed telecommunications backbone that underlies both landlines and wireless networks.  And that infrastructure is solely owned by U.S. firms -- AT&T and Verizon Business Network Services Inc. (a subsidiary of Verizon Communications).  Thus regardless of who owns the cellular carriers, the NSA can (and in many cases reportedly already does) seize communications at the lowest level, eliminating pesky civil liberties complaints by foreign nations.

fiber optics
Communications can be seized at the U.S.-owned backbone that underlies wireless networks.
[Image Source: AP]

In a letter to Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) Verizon Wireless admits [PDF] it did turn over records some of the time.  It says it responded to 260,000 customer data requests in 2011 (although it did not say how many customers were involved per request).  Of those half of the orders were without warrant (due proccess) while approximately half were via a court order or warrant.

According to sources, U.S. officials recognized the foreign leadership of T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless might lead them to buck the data gathering if they pushed the issue too hard.  So the feds kept their requests relatively small, knowing they could seize the information they missed further down the pipe.

Recent surveys showed approximately half of Americans are comfortable with the goverment tracking their locations (phone records).

Sources: WSJ, Verizon Wireless [PDF]

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RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By tigz1218 on 6/14/2013 4:52:55 PM , Rating: 5
Jason brings to light many newsworthy stories that get brushed under the rug by the media and I applaud him for that.

Your ignorance, that these "conspiracy theorists", is the exact type of attitude that has been responsible for history constantly repeating itself and allowing governments to grow to the point where they commit the most horrifying crimes against humanity imaginable. They make the sandy hook massacre look like a misdemeanor.

We are past the point of conspiracy. It is a FACT that the government is collect every single one of ours information. So you have nothing to hide you say? There are thousands upon thousands of pages of federal laws, many of which ou are probably unaware of. Or what happens if they nitpick the data they use and make it seem like you are doing something wrong, like releasing text messages you sent out and omitting key words from the sentence to make you like a terrible person. This is very possible, especially, god forbid, you ran for office and had a different viewpoint than the establishment.

Your attitude is exactly what they want. Never question authority and label those who does as crazies.

Thank you for the article Jason. Here is something else you may find interesting to write about:

RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By Jeffk464 on 6/15/2013 11:40:12 AM , Rating: 2

Its pretty obvious that the framers of the constitution had zero faith in people in power. Basically this distrust of political figures is the primary theme of the constitution.

By Jeffk464 on 6/15/2013 11:49:13 AM , Rating: 2
By the way Congress has about a 10% approval rating. That means 90% of the population doesn't seem to have much faith in our government.

RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By Spookster on 6/15/13, Rating: -1
RE: Only needed to read the headline...
By FaaR on 6/15/2013 12:41:34 PM , Rating: 3
You're a terrible excuse of an inhuman being.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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