NSA Hasn't Stopped Surveillance: 151 Million Phone Records Collected in 2016

In fact, the National Security Agency (NSA) collected 151m records of Americans' phone calls a year ago, even though it had warrants to collect the data on only 42 suspected terrorists.

At any rate, the Freedom Act was supposed to limit the NSA to collecting phone records and contacts of people whom intelligence agencies here in the United States and in allied countries suspect may have ties to terrorism.

Critics of the USA Freedom Act had previously warned that it doesn't do enough to block the NSA from collecting bulk phone records, and that mass surveillance is still possible. Despite the law changes, the annual transparency report reveals how the agency still collects a massive amount of records, even though it only had warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to spy on only 42 terrorism suspects in 2016.

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 report said the Federal Bureau of Investigation on one occasion in 2016 reviewed information about an American the NSA had collected under the surveillance program. The annual report comes just weeks after President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama's national security adviser of possibly committing a crime when she asked government analysts to disclose the names of Trump associates documented in intelligence reports.

Both Republican and Democratic members of the congressional intelligence committees have said that so far they have found no evidence to support either allegation. A change in the law in 2015 significantly changed the way and volume in which the NSA is legally authorized to scoop up data... but the net it casts is still pretty broad, pulling in 151 million phone records previous year.

It's got to do with the "hops": for example, if a target phone number calls another phone number, that's one hop.

"The same technologies that are being used to connect us, to tie us together, to let you listen to this right now, are also being used to make records about your activity", Edward Snowden said during an interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Officials said that they don't have a breakdown of how many individuals' phone records are represented in that 151m. The NSA also complied with requests from government officials to reveal the identities of 1,934 USA persons ensnared in the foreign surveillance.

According to the report - published by the Director of National Intelligence - the NSA may disseminate a US person's identity only if doing so meets one of a set of specified reasons under the agency's guidelines.

"This year's report continues our trajectory toward greater transparency, providing additional statistics beyond what is required by law", said Timothy Barrett, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

  • Joey Payne