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[liberationtech] Security Researcher Chris Seghoian: Senators hint at DOJ's secret reinterpretation and use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act

Moritz Bartl moritz at
Wed May 25 05:57:45 PDT 2011

Christopher Soghoian is a Washington, DC based Graduate Fellow at the
Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, and a Ph.D. Candidate in the
School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University.

His research is focused on the topic of online privacy. This includes
both consumer issues, such as online tracking as well as government


According to two Democratic Senators, the Department of Justice has
secretly reinterpreted a controversial provision contained in the USA
Patriot Act to give the government surveillance powers that are
"inconsistent with the public’s understanding of these laws." The
senators also accuse DOJ of misleading the American public when
describing the use of this legal authority.

This disclosure builds on previous cryptic statements from DOJ officials
regarding the use of "Section 215" powers for "sensitive collection
program," and Senator Russ Feingold regarding repeated abuses of Section
215 that he was not permitted to publicly describe.

Although FBI Director Robert Mueller revealed earlier this year that the
FBI has used Section 215 powers to monitor the sale of hydrogen
peroxide, such data collection is unlikely to be the "sensitive
collection program" about which several senators have tried to alert the

If I had to make a wild guess, I suspect it is likely related to
warrantless, massive scale collection of geo-location information from
cellular phones.


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