Good luck with your speech on government surveillance tomorrow, President Obama. New revelations about the National Security Agency published Thursday by The Guardian expose yet another secret agency program, one that collects almost 200 million text messages every day from cell phones around the world.
The new disclosure, again fed by leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden, arrives less than 24 hours before Obama will give an address calling for reforms to the NSA. The president is widely expected to embrace some — but not all — of the reforms called for last month by his hand-picked surveillance review board, but the timing of this new report strongly indicates we’re far from hearing the last from the massive trove of Snowden files.
The British paper published classified NSA slides from a 2011 presentation detailing a program known as “Dishfire,” which collected 194 million text messages per day in April of that year. Perhaps even more startling, a companion program called “Prefer” ran “automated analysis on the untargeted communications.”
U.S. phone numbers, according to the documents, were removed from the database.
According to The Guardian‘s analysis, the programs collect:
- More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone’s social network from who they contact and when)
- Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts
- More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images
- Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users.
The international surveillance of text messages calls to mind earlier disclosures revealing that the NSA has tapped phone lines of some heads of state around the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The latest leak may prompt Obama to engage in another round of assurances with world leaders suspicious of surveillance.
What We're Following See More »
Donald Trump has said he received a $17 million insurance payment in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma, which he claimed did severe damage to his private club in Florida. However, an Associated Press investigation could not find any evidence of the large-scale damage that Trump has mentioned. Additionally, Trump claimed that he transferred some of the $17 million to his personal account thanks to a "very good insurance policy."
The General Services Administration "will not choose a location for a FBI headquarters until after the new year, a potential setback for Prince George's County and its aim to land the agency and its 11,000 employees. ... It had hoped to make a decision by the end of 2016, timing which would have favored Maryland in terms of political clout on Capitol Hill. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker had been pressing for a decision before 2017," while veteran Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who's retiring, can still influence the outcome.
The majority and minority leader of the House are both saying "California's veterans are not to blame for being mistakenly overpaid, after a Los Angeles Times story revealed that officials are trying to claw back millions in bonuses from California National Guardsmen. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the efforts to recoup the money 'disgraceful,' and asked for the Department of Defense to waive the repayments soldiers would be forced to make if they inappropriately received re-enlistment bonuses for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she's looking for a "legislative fix" in the lame-duck session.
A new Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence poll shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each earning 41% support. On the one hand, the poll has been skewing in Trump's favor this year, relative to other polls. But on the other, data guru Nate Silver called the IBD/TIPP poll the most accurate in 2012.