July 26, 2011, 12:43 PM —
There’s no need to panic, or start shopping for aluminum-foil headwear, but the super-secret National Security Agency has apparently been thinking frequently enough about whether the NSA is allowed to intercept location data from cell phones to track U.S. citizens that the agency’s chief lawyer was able to speak intelligently about it off the cuff while interviewing for a different job.
“There are certain circumstances where that authority may exist,” even if the NSA has no warrant to investigate a the person whose privacy it is invading or global permission to eavesdrop on everyone, according to Matthew Olsen, the NSA’s general counsel.
He didn’t come to talk about that particularly; he said it yesterday in response to a question from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which was considering whether he’d be a good choice to run the National Counterterrorism Center.
The question of whether it’s legal is “very complicated,” Olsen said, implying nothing is going on along those lines right now.