The Pentagon Is Tracking US Citizens Without Warrants Using Commercial Data

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Engadget is reporting (via Vice News) that the Pentagon is tracking US citizens. The real issue with this is that the Pentagon is doing this without a warrant. This overall news is pretty troubling. Privacy is a big focus in today’s society. So knowing that our government is spying without permission is pretty harrowing.

The way the Pentagon is doing this is with the help of commercial data. According to Senator Ron Wyden, there is no due legal process in doing this. The information that the Pentagon is using comes from purchasing it from commercial sources. This includes mobile location and other data.

Senator Wyden had this to say: “I write to urge you to release to the public information about the Department of Defense’s warrantless surveillance of Americans. Now to be clear the Pentagon and other agencies have been purchasing location data for years. However, they aren’t doing it for no reason.


The reason for doing this is to track terrorist groups and more to keep the country safe. The idea is noble. But as Senator Wyden writes in his letter: “I have spent the last year investigating the shady, unregulated data brokers that are selling this data and the government agencies that are buying it.” Even with good intentions the means of reaching their doesn’t seem to be ethical.

The Pentagon is tracking US citizens without warrants is unethical

Not only is it unethical, but it is definitely illegal. Government agencies can not do this type of spying on American citizens. This is thanks to the Fourth Amendment. However, the intelligence part of the DoD is foregoing following these laws.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has been purchasing location data and other commercial data to do this. Now, if the Defense Intelligence Agency were to have warrants for these actions it would be legal. The US Supreme Court made that law in 2018. Having a warrant would justify the actions of the Defense Intelligence Agency.


Senator Wyden is calling the DoD out for this which is a good thing. But, what about other governmental agencies. Are other agencies doing the same thing, and if so how many more?

However, the DoD does have a reply to Senator Wyden to defend their actions. The DoD says that it is up to each agency to ensure it’s following the law. That is one statement that the Pentagon is giving.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon is keeping other statements redacted. Senator Wyden makes it clear that this information should be made public. He says it should only be hidden if it poses a risk to national security.


This isn’t the first time the government has been called out for warrantless monitoring of American citizens. The overall means for doing this makes sense. But, it is unquestionable that government agencies should adhere to the law as well.