The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s latest report on data searches – the kind tied to law enforcement activities – has found that warrantless searches are on the rise.
The data, which debuted on Tuesday (April 30), shows there has been a 28 percent rise in the targeted search terms that are used to query databases, spanning everything from email to cell phone calls to text messages.
More than 9,600 warrantless searches were conducted on the aforementioned communications, as estimated by the National Security Agency (NSA), which is up from the more than 7,500 searches from 2017.
The searches are tied to powers as defined under Section 702, noted a report, which allow the NSA to access data in an effort to gather intelligence on foreigners living overseas. Authorities can use Section 702 to access information that traverses phone networks and cables owned by U.S. phone companies, and it also lets the government secretly access tech firms’ data. As information is gathered on foreigners, it is also inadvertently gathered on U.S. citizens.
But, as the site noted, those tallies do not take into account searches conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Administration. The numbers also do not show how many Americans’ data was accessed, although there were as many as 434.2 million phone records under surveillance, compared to 534.3 million in 2017. (The phone records surveillance program was among those spotlighted by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and has been curtailed in recent years, said the report. There may be duplicates in those records, said the NSA.
The data does show there was a 27 percent increase in the total number or foreigners who had communications targeted by NSA queries – more than 164,700 individuals or groups were targeted, up from 129,080 in the previous year.
This was the sixth annual “Statistical Transparency Report Regarding Use of National Security Authorities” published by the NSA.