Morning Security Brief: Snowden Receives Asylum, Warantless Cellphone Tracking Constitutional, NSA Program Scrutiny, And More

By Lilly Chapa

Edward Snowden has left the Moscow airport where he has been in limbo. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia. While he waits for a decision for permanent asylum, the current deal allows Snowden to live, work, and travel in the country for a year and reapply annually. Snowden’s lawyer said his location will be kept secret, according to USA TODAY. “He is the most wanted person on earth and his security will be a priority,” Snowden’s lawyer said. “He will deal with personal security issues and lodging himself.” The U.S. has revoked Snowden’s passport and issued an international arrest warrant on espionage charges. The Kremlin has refused to extradite Snowden.

The government can access historical location data directly from telecommunication companies without a search warrant, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Tuesday. According to the New York Times, it is the first ruling that addresses the constitutionality of combing through historical cell phone location data without a warrant. The decision means that the information—the GPS coordinates of cell phones—is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, and law enforcement officials can track the whereabouts of an American without probable cause.
The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill that would strengthen cybersecurity in America, according to The Hill. The bill, which will be voted on by the Senate before the end of the year, would task the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) with collaborating with businesses to create voluntary cybersecurity best practices and standards--essentially codifying into law provisions in President Obama's February Executive Order, which NIST is already working on. “Our bill takes some important steps to help our private companies and our government agencies to defend their networks against their adversaries,” said Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.). 
Documents detailing the National Security Agency’s metadata collection program were declassified at the Senate judiciary committee hearing Wednesday, revealing how the agency goes about searching through databases of Americans’ phone records. Many members of the committee questioned whether the program has too broad a reach, but intelligence officials said the documents prove that the NSA does not spy on Americans, according to The Hill. Meanwhile, The Guardian published an article based on NSA documents provided by Snowden detailing another NSA program, called xKeyscore, that allows government officials to search through emails, online chats, and the browsing histories of Americans. According to the documents, the program is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system that covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.” The NSA released a statement in response to the program disclosure, reports Techweekeurope.


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