From 2013 to 2015, the NSA and CIA doubled the number of warrantless searches they conducted for Americans’ data in a massive NSA database ostensibly collected for foreign intelligence purposes, according to a new intelligence community transparency report.
The estimated number of search terms “concerning a known U.S. person” to get contents of communications within what is known as the 702 database was 4,672 — more than double the 2013 figure.
And that doesn’t even include the number of FBI searches on that database. A recently released Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruling confirmed that the FBI is allowed to run any number of searches it wants on that database, not only for national security probes but also to hunt for evidence of traditional crimes. No estimates have ever been released of how often that happens.
Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA collects hundreds of millions of digital communications at rest and in transit from the major internet backbones running in and out of the U.S., as well as from Google, Facebook, YouTube, and other companies, involving “targets” overseas.
Americans’ communications are constitutionally protected from warrantless searches, but when those communications are swept up by the NSA “incidentally” to its main goal, those protections have been essentially ignored.