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ODNI Report: NSA Collected 151M Records of US Citizens’ Phone Calls in 2016

An annual report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence says the National Security Agency gathered at least 151 million phone call records of U.S. citizens in 2016 despite a congressional restriction on the collection of such data, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Mark Hosenball writes the report also showed that NSA made the records collection despite Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-issued warrants that call for the agency to conduct surveillance operations on only 42 suspects who may have links to terrorism.

ODNI issued the report as Congress considers whether to renew NSA’s application for the reauthorization of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

FISA section 702 allows NSA and other Intelligence Community agencies to conduct surveillance operations on foreign individuals outside the U.S. in order to gather intelligence on cybersecurity and terrorism activities.

The ODNI report came days after NSA decided to end some of its “upstream” surveillance activities under section 702 following a review of privacy issues, mission needs, technological difficulties and implementation challenges.

NSA said it will no longer collect “upstream internet communications” between U.S. individuals who talked about a foreign intelligence target and will delete previously acquired upstream digital records “as soon as practicable.”

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