updated 06:25 pm EDT, Tue July 26, 2011
Agency lawyer hints at expanded capabilities
The National Security Agency may have been given the authority to track movements of American citizens within the country, despite the agency's focus on foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. NSA general counsel Matthew Olsen told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the agency may have the authority to track Americans in certain situations, though he declined to elaborate.
In a confirmation hearing for his nomination to head the National Counterterrorism Center, Olsen discussed questions that Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall sent to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The senators sent a letter asking for clarification on the authority of the NSA and CIA to "collect the geolocation information of American citizens for intelligence purposes."
In the hearing, Wyden directly asked if the NSA is allowed to use cell site date to track Americans within the country.
"There are certain circumstances where that authority may exist," Olsen said, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein has asked for a memo by September with further clarification, after Olsen dodged full disclosure by labeling the inquiry a "very complicated question."