Cruz 1, Rubio 0 in debate over NSA telephone metadata collection

Marco Rubio behaved as though he had a winning issue to shave support from Ted Cruz during the GOP debate Tuesday when he accused the Texas senator of weakening national security through supporting legislation preventing the NSA from collecting bulk metadata on phone calls.  Cruz stoutly defended the reforms as enhancing national security.

As it happens, as Rubio made his point, he was being undercut by the head of the NSA.  Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reports:

… as Rubio was attacking Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas over his vote for the USA Freedom Act, NSA Director Michael Rogers was telling a group of industry and intelligence officials that the new program “is working well so far.” (snip)

Cruz noted that the changes called for by the legislation increase potential coverage for counterterrorism analysts. That’s because, for technical and other reasons, the NSA had been collecting only a percentage of call records from phone companies — as of 2013, officials said, it was between 20 and 30 percent, which contradicts the common perception that the government had collected virtually all domestic phone data. Some large cellphone carriers, such as Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, were not participating.

Today, though, the government could serve a court order for metadata records on those companies. “The new program covers nearly 100 percent” of phone numbers, Cruz asserted. “That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and [Rubio] knows that’s the case.”

The legislation also enabled the agency to obtain up to two “hops” of records with one court order. The first hop are numbers in direct contact with a target’s number. Those numbers may then be sent by the NSA to phone companies to obtain second-hop records, expanding further the number obtained. And it permits the attorney general in emergencies to approve the use of a specific number as a query to phone companies as long as the agency follows up with the court for final approval.

Rogers on Tuesday said that the NSA is working with the initial set of providers, such as AT&T and Verizon Business Network Services. “We’ll . . . look to add additional providers over time,” he said at a dinner hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

“It’s not an insignificant challenge for our privacy company teammates, because we’re asking them to do something we haven’t done before,” he said. But, he said, “they’re working hard to try to make this work.”

I am about as hardcore as anyone can be on fighting jihad, but I was creeped out by the NSA’s intrusiveness.  It is much better to have the data in private hands and accessible with a court order.

Marco Rubio behaved as though he had a winning issue to shave support from Ted Cruz during the GOP debate Tuesday when he accused the Texas senator of weakening national security through supporting legislation preventing the NSA from collecting bulk metadata on phone calls.  Cruz stoutly defended the reforms as enhancing national security.

As it happens, as Rubio made his point, he was being undercut by the head of the NSA.  Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reports:

… as Rubio was attacking Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas over his vote for the USA Freedom Act, NSA Director Michael Rogers was telling a group of industry and intelligence officials that the new program “is working well so far.” (snip)

Cruz noted that the changes called for by the legislation increase potential coverage for counterterrorism analysts. That’s because, for technical and other reasons, the NSA had been collecting only a percentage of call records from phone companies — as of 2013, officials said, it was between 20 and 30 percent, which contradicts the common perception that the government had collected virtually all domestic phone data. Some large cellphone carriers, such as Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, were not participating.

Today, though, the government could serve a court order for metadata records on those companies. “The new program covers nearly 100 percent” of phone numbers, Cruz asserted. “That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and [Rubio] knows that’s the case.”

The legislation also enabled the agency to obtain up to two “hops” of records with one court order. The first hop are numbers in direct contact with a target’s number. Those numbers may then be sent by the NSA to phone companies to obtain second-hop records, expanding further the number obtained. And it permits the attorney general in emergencies to approve the use of a specific number as a query to phone companies as long as the agency follows up with the court for final approval.

Rogers on Tuesday said that the NSA is working with the initial set of providers, such as AT&T and Verizon Business Network Services. “We’ll . . . look to add additional providers over time,” he said at a dinner hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

“It’s not an insignificant challenge for our privacy company teammates, because we’re asking them to do something we haven’t done before,” he said. But, he said, “they’re working hard to try to make this work.”

I am about as hardcore as anyone can be on fighting jihad, but I was creeped out by the NSA’s intrusiveness.  It is much better to have the data in private hands and accessible with a court order.