NSA Warrantless Searches Jump Over 40%
Warrantless searches by the NSA have soared by 42% in the first year of the Trump administration while collection of phone records tripled, according to newly released figures.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) published the stats on Friday, showing 7,512 searches of the content of American citizens’ phone calls and online messages — hoovered up as part of the controversial Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The law is meant to allow US spy agencies to target foreigners thought to be a threat to national security. But a massive loophole means comms data on blameless US citizens is also collected, and can then be searched without a warrant, despite constitutional protections.
Searches on 702-collected data can also be made by internal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, which are not listed here — so the real figure could be much higher.
Despite the protestations of privacy groups and some lawmakers, Section 702 was re-authorized largely without changes earlier this year.
In addition, the ODNI figures revealed that the NSA collected 534 million phone call and text message records in 2017, three times the 2016 figure.
However, these included metadata such as phone number and time of call, but not their content.
The sharp rise in collection of 151m records has led to concerns from rights groups that the US authorities are abusing their power again, although intelligence officials have reportedly claimed the large number could be down to duplicate records and multiple calls made to or from the same numbers.
The NSA is also said to have increased targeting of foreign citizens by around 20%, from 106,00 individuals in 2016 to 129,000 last year.
Source: Information Security Magazine