Top intelligence official sidesteps queries on cellphone locations

WASHINGTON – The nation’s top intelligence official on Thursday sidestepped questions from a senator about whether the National Security Agency has ever used Americans cellphone signals to collect information on their whereabouts that would allow tracking of the movements of individual callers.

Asked twice by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., if NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect such data, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander answered both times by reading from a letter provided to senators who had asked the same question last summer. He also cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, “What I don’t want to do … is put out in an unclassified forum anything that’s classified.”

Wyden promised to keep asking.

“I believe this is something the American people have a right to know, whether NSA has ever collected or made plans to collect cell site information,” Wyden said.