The office of Director of National Intelligence has reported that the NSA did collect 151 million records of metadata from U.S. citizens in 2016. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he was spied upon, according to Democrats and Republican members who sit on the congressional intelligence committee, there is no evidence to support the allegations.
Despite the U.S. Congress limiting the National Security Agency (NSA) from collecting the metadata of call records from U.S. citizens, the agency has collected more than 151 million records of phone calls made by Americans last year.
This was revealed in an annual report from the office of Director of National Intelligence.
The report was the first measure of the effects of the 2015 USA Freedom Act which was created to limit the NSA from collecting metadata of phone records contacts of U.S. citizens and allied intelligence agencies.
As per the report, in 2016 the NSA collected 151 million records although it had only 42 warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to spy on only terrorist suspects.
To safeguard national security interests, the NSA had been picking up a humongous quantities of telephone “metadata,” including records of callers’ and recipients’ phone numbers and the times and durations of the calls, since the September 11, 2001.
The report has been tabled midst Congress facing a decision as to whether it should reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits the NSA to collect foreign intelligence information on non-U.S. persons outside the United States. It is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.
Privacy advocates have vehemently argued against the provisions of the act saying it allows the NSA to spy on internet and telephone communications of U.S. citizens without any warrant from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; further these courts could also be used for domestic law enforcement purposes in a way that evades traditional legal requirements.
The report has highlighted one particular instance in 2016, when the FBI had obtained information on an American in response to a search warrant covered by Section 702 but collected evidence not related to foreign intelligence.
Significantly, the report did not address the frequency of data collected by the FBI on Americans while investigating a foreign intelligence matter.
Last week, the NSA disclosed it has stopped a form of surveillance that allowed it to collect data on Americans who mentioned a foreign intelligence target in their messages without a warrant.
“This year’s report continues our trajectory toward greater transparency, providing additional statistics beyond what is required by law,” said Timothy Barrett, the spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.