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NSA Phone Data on U.S. Locations Incidental, Chief Says

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Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The National Security Agency can inadvertently intercept mobile phone data revealing the location of U.S. citizens, the agency’s chief said.

The collection of cell site location data occurs abroad when the NSA is conducting electronic surveillance on a suspected foreign terrorist, Army General Keith Alexander told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing today in Washington.

“We’re not targeting Americans and we’re not going after Americans’ data,” Alexander said in an interview after the hearing. “The fact that that’s collected is incidental.”

The location of mobile phones represents another form of data the NSA gains access to, along with bulk phone records of millions of U.S. citizens showing which numbers they dialed and the duration of calls.

President Barack Obama’s administration has been criticized domestically and abroad over the extent of NSA spy programs. Some lawmakers have introduced bills that would restrict the agency, including by prohibiting the collection of bulk phone records.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net