Report: Memo says intelligence agency gathers U.S. smartphone location data without warrant

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WASHINGTON, D.C.- In a memo to a top Senate Democrat, analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said that they have purchased databases of U.S. smartphone location data in recent years without any type of warrant.

According to the document released on Friday, January 22nd by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, DIA analysts have searched American location data five times in the past two and a half years.

The Hill reported that Sen. Wyden had asked the agency whether it was interpreting the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Carpenter v. United States to mean that obtaining data from a third-party broker rather than a phone company does not require a warrant. 

The agency responded in the memo by saying:

“DIA does not construe the Carpenter decision to require a judicial warrant endorsing purchase or use of commercially-available data for intelligence purposes.”

The New York Times was the first to obtain the unclassified memo, stating that the disclosure sheds light on an emerging loophole in privacy law during the digital age.

According to the 2018 ruling, known as the Carpenter decision, the Constitution requires the government to obtain a warrant to compel phone companies to turn over location data about their customers.

However, the government can instead buy similar data from a broker and does not believe it needs a warrant to do so. Sen. Wyden now plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to address the matter.

In a recent Senate speech, he denounced:

“Circumstances in which the government, instead of getting an order, just goes out and purchases the private records of Americans from these sleazy and unregulated commercial data brokers who are simply above the laws”

He proceeded to call the practice unacceptable and an intrusion in constitutional privacy rights. The bill, known as the “Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale Act,” would offer new safeguards for U.S. citizens’ data. 

Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, said that the DIA memo proves that Congress needs to step in. She said in a recent statement:

“The government cannot simply buy our private data in order to bypass bedrock constitutional protections. Congress must end this lawless practice and require the government to get a warrant for our location data, regardless of its source.”

The government’s use of commercial databases of location information has come under increasing scrutiny. Many smartphone apps log their users’ locations and the app makers can aggregate the data and sell it to brokers, who can then resell it, including to the government.

The release of the DIA memo comes amid a broader debate of reauthorizing three investigative tools whose legal authority lapsed in 2020. Reportedly, one of those tools is Section 125, which allows intelligence agencies to covertly obtain court orders to collect any business records deemed relevant to national security.

It has been known that the government sometimes uses such data for law enforcement purposes on domestic soil. For example, in 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have used commercial databases to patrol the border and track immigrants.

Vice News’ Motherboard reported back in November 2020 that the U.S. military was buying data from a Muslim prayer app via a third-party broker. The app then said it would stop sharing data with the broker. 

In October 2020, BuzzFeed News reported on an internal DHS memo arguing a warrant is not needed to obtain that sort of data. Reportedly, Sen. Wyden asked Avril D. Haines, President Joe Biden’s new director of national intelligence, about what he called “abuses” of commercially available locational information.

Haines said that she was not yet up to speed on the topic, but stressed the importance of the government being open about the rules under which it is operating. She said in a statement:

“I would seek to try to publicize, essentially, a framework that helps people understand the circumstances under which we do that and the legal basis that we do that under. I think that’s part of what’s critical to promoting transparency generally so that people have an understanding of the guidelines under which the intelligence community operates.”

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McCarthy, after attending an FBI briefing, claims Swalwell needs to be removed from the House Intelligence Committee over involvement with Chinese spy.

December 20th, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Over the last few days, a scandal has broken out with Democratic California Representative Eric Swalwell over his relationship with an alleged Chinese spy.  Now, Republican leaders have attended an FBI briefing regarding the incident and are claiming that Swalwell should not have been allowed to be or remain on the House Intelligence Committee.

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also from California, made the bold statement after attending the FBI briefing.  He said:

“I’ve been asking for this briefing since the story broke publicly.  I was not briefed.  That’s when I first learned about it.  I had two different FBI briefings scheduled that were canceled on the day.

“And now it came on Friday, and we were briefed together, Speaker Pelosi and myself for more than an hour.  I can’t tell you about what’s in it, but I can tell you this.  What I learned today and anyone who was in the room with me would never allow Swalwell to be on the Intel Committee or to continue to be on it. 

“I don’t know if the briefing for leaders, if they had the same information they have today, but if that was the case, he should not be serving.”

The relationship between Swalwell and the alleged Chinese spy, Christine Fang, has been brought into question after it came to light that she might be a foreign agent, tasked with getting close to politicians in power.  While there is no indication, at least publicly, that Swalwell passed confidential intelligence on to her, Republican leaders like McCarthy are throwing a flag.    He said:

“I can’t talk about what’s in it [FBI briefing], but let’s talk about what’s publicly out there right now.  It wasn’t that this spy known as a spy got to know him as a congressman but got to know him as a city councilman.  It’s told in the press that they, he, she helped raise money.

“They called her a bundler in the press, got her into — got him into Congress.  And within his second term, he got probably one of the most powerful committees.  That is one of the most difficult committees to sit on that it’s not selected by your peers.

“It’s selected by one person; the leader of the Democratic Party and the leader of the Republican selects the Republicans.  I take this quite serious where you interview. 

“This is also the same man when  you asked him a part of this committee, the questions that he raised, what he said about Russia and others, many of the questions that he raised and posed to people are made accusations about people is actually what happened to him if you read the press.”

https://twitter.com/szlava97/status/1340431350373953537

What McCarthy is referring to are the repeated attacks by Swalwell and other Democratic leaders who directly accused President Donald Trump of being a foreign agent for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Swalwell directly accused the President and members of his family with working with Russia to the detriment of the United States.

Swalwell’s office released a statement on the allegations that he was worked by Fang.  The statement said:

“Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI.  To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”

https://twitter.com/TruthWNeverDie/status/1340103631878631424

Claims that Swalwell was the start of the investigation into Fang and her being a spy is being disputed by McCarthy, who noted:

“It was the FBI that went to him [Swalwell] in the press, not him going to them.  And this individual that they talk about, Christine Fang, she wasn’t in the press saying the only person in America that she was getting — making relationships with, getting to know.

“So, pretty — I would assume it would be pretty serious if the FBI came to you that they knew this person was a spy for another country.  And then take from a moment, what are the actions that he takes just in this last month?  You talk about John Ratcliffe, the Director of Intel when he said that China is our greatest threat.

“Swalwell didn’t say he was correct.  Swalwell actually challenged him and said China is not.  Now he’s a part of the Intel Committee.  So, he reads the reports that I read all the time as the Gang of Eight.  Anyone who reads those reports would never make that accusation and would never say that.  They would agree with John Ratcliffe, and they would take actions to protect America.”

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Ted Cruz: I’ve said ‘screw the Chinese communists’. ‘Little did I know how closely Swalwell was listening.’Ted Cruz: I’ve said ‘screw the Chinese communists’. ‘Little did I know how closely Swalwell was listening.’

December 11, 2020

 

TEXAS — We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported on the unveiled controversy revolving around Rep. Eric Swalwell was reportedly involved with a suspected Chinese spy some years back. 

While the controversy surrounding that matter is a story all on it’s own (more on that below), Sen. Ted Cruz seemingly couldn’t help himself from making a bit of a pun regarding the debacle. 

And by pun, Sen. Cruz decided to speculate on the nature of the Communist Chinese spy and Swalwell’s intermingling: 

“More than once, I’ve said “screw the Chinese communists.” Little did I know how closely Swalwell was listening.”

Now, in the interest of reporting verifiable facts, it is unclear whether Swalwell was involved romantically with the alleged espionage operative known as Christine Fang.

But, what can be said is that Swalwell’s own camp admitted that he and Fang knew each other since around 2012 — before he ever held public office. Fang even helped raise funds for Swalwell’s 2014 reelection efforts. 

And Fang even had helped place one intern into Swalwell’s office and mingled with the Representative up until around 2015. 

Plus, pictures of Fang show that she wasn’t exactly unattractive by conventional standards — in fact, most would likely agree that she’d rather easy on the eyes. 

And Swalwell didn’t get married to his current wife until 2016, after the FBI informed him of their concerns over Fang. 

 From there, one would have to speculate on what an attractive young woman — with an alleged agenda for the CCP to gather intel — and a young man might do when harboring said entanglements. 

But with Cruz’s joking speculation came some criticism, which is not all that surprising. 

One commenter responded to Cruz’s post, writing: 

“You sound more and more like Trump every day. To think I used to be so naive as to believe you were one of the classier ones. You were right when you said he was evil, and now you’re acting just like him, maybe even worse.”

To which a particular writer from LET responded with: 

“Jokes aside, Swalwell managed to be entangled with Fang before he got into office, let her raise funds for him in 2014 and took in a staffer she suggested — all before he got married in 2016. I’m pretty dang sure he was tapping it as well, let’s be adults and cognizant here.”

As for Swalwell, he recently hinted at The White House possibly airing out his proverbial dirty laundry from years back.

The reason being is that he noted he’s been a vocal critic of President Trump when responding to the criticism over the essentially hushed debacle: 

“I’ve been a critic of the president. I’ve spoken out against him. I was on both committees that worked to impeach him. The timing feels like that should be looked at.”

But the timeline is a little skewed, as Swalwell has been critical of Trump far before the failed impeachment. In fact, he even appeared on MSNBC nearly two years ago accusing of President Trump’s son meeting with a “Russian spy”. 

One cannot but help notice the irony in those accusation, as Swalwell knew at the time of that interview that he’d courted in some fashion or another a literal Chinese spy for years

 

 

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