A US law allowing the country’s intelligence agencies to spy on foreigners living abroad by using US phone companies’ assets has resulted in a sharp rise in spying on American citizens as well.
This is revealed in a transparency report concerning the activities of intelligence services, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and covering the previous year, TechCrunch said.
The statistical report shows how often the US government makes use of its security apparatus.
In numbers, warrantless searches of phone calls, chat logs, emails and other data collected from Americans increased by 28 percent – up to 9,637 from 7,512 year-on-year. And this concerns only those searches done by the National Security Agency (NSA), leaving out the FBI and the DEA.
The data of Americans is collected as a collateral victim of NSA’s massive spying operations targeting foreigners, as it is “vacuumed up inadvertently,” as the report put it. Otherwise, the Fourth Amendment should prevent searches carried out without a court warrant.
As for the phone records collected with the authorization of a court – albeit a secret one – these have declined to 432.2 million from 534.3 million the previous year, and NSA looked into them 164,770 times over the past year – more than five times more than the year before.
Meanwhile, when it comes to spying on foreigners, the agency has reported the biggest surge on record of these activities – up 27 percent, targeting 164,770 people and groups.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed many of these practices, along with their extent and scope, in the NSA documents he released via media outlets in 2013, but in the meantime, despite the public outcry, his efforts did not result in big policy changes.
Warrantless searches into US citizens’ data continue – and as the report shows, are on the rise – thanks to NSA’s Section 702 powers, while the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court continues to allow the government to spy within the country – although the Trump administration said 30 of its requests had been rejected – a trend that has been emerging over the last three years.