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NSA collected over 151mn phone records in 2016 despite surveillance law changes

The NSA collected over 151 million phone records from Americans last year, while having warrants for only 42 terrorist suspects, an annual report shows. In 2015, the agency’s snooping powers were cut following Edward Snowden’s revelations.

The new transparency report revealing the agency’s haul was released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The records include communicational “metadata,”showing who contacted whom, but not what they said. The amount of collected data is still lower compared to previous years, when the National Security Agency (NSA) collected “billions of records per day,”according to a 2014 report.

The 151 million records, however, do not represent the actual number of phone calls or people who had their data collected, the report explained, because this volume includes multiple calls made to or from the same phone numbers. Apart from that, a single phone call logged by two phone companies counted as two records.

The number, however, is still significant, since the NSA only obtained warrants through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for only 42 terrorist suspects in 2016, along with a number of suspects left over from 2015, according to the new report. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the FISC or FISA court, oversees requests for surveillance warrants from law enforcement agencies involving suspects in the US.

The NSA can provide the collected data, which involves the “US persons”(USP) to other security and intelligence agencies. In 2016, according to the report, the number of “unmasked” USP identities was “much lower,”compared to the previous year.


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