US asked that 1934 Americans' names be 'unmasked' in intel
22:42, May 4, 2017
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Despite the USA Freedom Act of 2015, the NSA collected 151 million records of Americans' phone calls previous year, even though it had obtained warrants from the FISA court to spy on only 42 people suspected of having ties to terrorism.
"The report, courtesy of Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), shows the true scope of NSA surveillance, even under the" limited" access arrangement.
Under the existing rules, NSA collects data on numbers that are "two hops" (two degrees of separation) away from a targeted phone.
Since the major terror attack in the United States on September 11, 2001, the NSA has been collecting data about the U.S. citizens phone calls. In 2015, government officials requested the unmasking of 2,232 identities.
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Politicians have repeatedly asked United States intelligence agencies to tell them how many Americans' emails and calls are vacuumed up by warrantless government surveillance programmes. The NSA's change of course applies only to "upstream" communications that are exclusively "about" a foreign intelligence target-that is, the NSA will no longer collect communications, for example, that include a targeted e-mail address in the text or body of the e-mail, even though the e-mail is between two persons who are not themselves targets of NSA surveillance.
The report did not address how frequently the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained information about Americans while investigating a foreign intelligence matter, however.
The new report came amid allegations - recently repeated by US President Donald Trump - that former president Barack Obama ordered warrantless surveillance of his communications, and former national security adviser Susan Rice asked the NSA to "unmask" the names of US people caught in the surveillance.
Both Republican and Democratic members of the congressional intelligence committees have said that so far they have found no evidence to support either allegation.
Information under FISA Title VII Sections 703 and 704 explains that a target doesn't necessarily mean one person; it could also mean a "group, entity composed of multiple individuals or foreign power that uses the selector such as a telephone number or email address".
They also noted the 151 million phone records were not all from unique numbers. So if a target called a given phone number once a day for a year, it counts as 365 records that the NSA gets from a phone service provider.
According to the report - published by the Director of National Intelligence - the NSA may disseminate a USA person's identity only if doing so meets one of a set of specified reasons under the agency's guidelines.
Most names in such intelligence reports are masked to protect privacy, but a year ago government officials requested that 1,934 identities - not initially revealed in the NSA reports - be unmasked in order to understand the intelligence being conveyed.
One observer of the US intelligence community said the rise in targets - which hit 92,707 in 2014 and 94,368 in 2015 - might reflect an increasingly diverse gamut of adversaries rather than an intensification of surveillance.
The information comes from a transparency report from the office of Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.
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