NSA Ignored Law Change, Collected US Citizens' Phone Records

This is the first report that assesses the effects of the 2015 Freedom Act. Under Section 702, NSA collects two types of internet communications: "downstream" and "upstream".

That's the act that was supposed to clip the NSA's surveillance powers. Expanding on that the report suggests the actual total number of phone records collected from individual persons is quite a bit less, albeit without mentioning a set definitive number to correlate along with amount of people.

"Back in 2004, a division of the NSA called the National Tactical Integration Office fitted a 62-foot diameter airship called the Hover Hammer with an eavesdropping device", reported the Intercept, adding that "The agency launched the three-engine airship at an airfield near Solomons Island, Maryland". And it's a topic that should be number one.

NSA collected 151M phone records in 2016, despite law change

Justifying the 151 million phone records as compared to the 46 people they were authorised to put under surveillance, an NSA official told Reuters that this happened "Because the 151 million would include multiple calls made to or from the same phone numbers". Each query related to a single phone number counts separately.

NSA collected the 151 million records even though it had warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on only 42 suspects in 2016, in addition to a handful identified the previous year, the report said. They said they had no breakdown of how many individuals' phone records were among those collected.

The Office of the National Director said in the report that the names of 1,934 USA people were unmasked a year ago in response to specific requests, down from the 2,232 people unmasked in 2015.

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In other words, it allows the NSA to sidestep the need to get warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in order to eavesdrop on Americans' internet and phone conversations.

In 1,934 instances, the NSA complied with requests from authorized officials to "unmask" names that had been originally blacked out to protect privacy. If Americans or permanent residents are swept up in the search, they are considered "incidental" and their identities are "minimized" under what the report called "robust internal agency oversight". That's called "about" information in Section 702. The legislation decreed that NSA should no longer automatically see metadata like phone numbers and the length of calls, and carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint should hold on to that data, releasing it to the NSA only when the agency receives permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, given on case-by-case basis.

The spy agency says it doesn't collect the content of the communications.

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All this data's above and beyond what the government is legally required to give us, says the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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