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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: 1% on VPN?
By BRB29 on 6/15/2013 1:09:20 PM , Rating: 0
you know when people say the feds, they mean the federal reserve.

RE: 1% on VPN?
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/15/2013 4:58:10 PM , Rating: 2
Normal people, unlike you, when they says the feds, they mean the FBI. Again, showing your complete ignorance.

RE: 1% on VPN?
By BRB29 on 6/17/2013 8:22:42 AM , Rating: 1
What is your definition of normal? uneducated?

If you're going to accuse someone of anything, at least be accurate on who you're talking about. But why does that even matter, the people here can't even differentiate who they are blaming. No wonder why you're always losing in life and blaming the government in general lol. If you hate the government so much then do something about it or vacate yourself somewhere else.

RE: 1% on VPN?
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/17/2013 11:27:43 AM , Rating: 2
Troll, done feeding you. You contribute nothing to these conversations. You are a know-it-all loser who argues even when pointed out to be wrong. You call people liars and uneducated when you have nothing to counter with.

It's pretty obvious to anyone at this point you are just trolling. Go get a job and a life would you.

RE: 1% on VPN?
By JPForums on 6/18/2013 8:29:44 AM , Rating: 2
What is your definition of normal? uneducated?

Nah, the use of "Feds" to cover any generic federal entity (though mostly used for those with policing authority) was made popular by Hollywood. Which federal entity they are referring to in any given situation is to be inferred by the context of the situation. Makes it much less work to get things right when you can just refer to all of them at once and let the target audience figure out which one is applicable (if they care). Like it or hate it, they set the trends in the U.S.

RE: 1% on VPN?
By foolsgambit11 on 6/17/2013 1:29:40 AM , Rating: 2
the fed is the Federal Reserve. The feds (with the 's') is more generic, although it's probably most frequently used to refer to agencies that have policing power, like the FBI/DEA/ATF/Homeland Security/whatever.

RE: 1% on VPN?
By SlyNine on 6/29/2013 12:48:06 AM , Rating: 2
First off, given the context it's pretty obvious what "feds" he's talking about. Feds being short for federal authority. The fed, as you are implying, is a completely different thing.

Second off, get a life.

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