NSA defends global cellphone tracking as legal

KIMBERLY DOZIER AP Intelligence Writer Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Security Agency is defending its tracking of foreign cellphones overseas. It says the practice is legal under a U.S. presidential order governing all U.S. government spying.

The agency said Friday it isn't tracking every foreign phone and call, and that it takes measures to limit how much U.S. data is collected.

The Washington Post reported this week that the agency gathers up to 5 billion records every day about the location data for hundreds of millions of cellphones worldwide. That includes some American data, according to documents from former NSA contractor-turned-fugitive Edward Snowden.

Spokeswoman Vanee (Vuh-NAY) Vines says the practice is legal under a White House order that governs U.S. espionage. She says NSA analysts must treat any U.S. citizens' data they accidentally gather differently.