Data Retention Program: NSA monitored significantly more foreigners in 2018

Data Retention Program: NSA monitored significantly more foreigners in 2018
Data Retention Program: NSA monitored significantly more foreigners in 2018

In the previous year, the NSA spied far more foreigners than in 2017. The number of flat-rate directives under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rose by some 27 percent from 129,080 in the previous year to 164,770 in 2018. This emerges from the current annual Transparency Report on National Security Agency Surveillance Activities, released by US intelligence agency Dan Coats on Tuesday.

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The total number of affected foreigners has therefore reached a high since the first publication of the statistics in 2013, when there were 89,138 affected persons. The number has increased continuously since then.

The recent addition to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was last amended in early 2018, allows US security agencies to request e-mails and other customer information from national companies, agencies and institutions such as telecommunications providers or libraries. The surveillance of telecommunications outside of the US by the secret services does not require individual judicial permission.

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In the related datasets, agents with a judge’s license may also search for the content of US citizens who have been in contact with target persons abroad. In the past year, the NSA came up with 9637 individual search activities such as e-mails, text messages, chat messages or calls, whereas in 2017 there were still 7512.

This corresponds to an increase of around 28 percent. In addition, there were 14,374 searches in metadata such as connection or location information. This number was still at 16,924 in 2017. The report does not contain any information such as the use of authority by the FBI or other authorized authorities .

The NSA’s data retention program, which was declared dead by Edward Snowden in 2013, was still alive at least in 2018. Thus, the technical secret service collected and evaluated a good 434 million “traffic data” from US providers last year. In 2017 there were still 534 million.

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Reports, according to which the NSA no longer use this license for mass surveillance for months, thus appear at least questionable. Allegedly, the National Security Agency does not want to urge the US government to maintain its authority.

In June 2018, the intelligence service had to admit “technical irregularities” around data retention. It had information about the authority reached that they should not have had. According to the report, the NSA has reoriented the program since May 23, and now also maintains a book of recorded identifiers.

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Since then, she has collected over 19 million phone numbers alone, with nearly 7.3 million IMSI subscriber IDs and over 5.3 million IMEI serial numbers. The number of search terms used against US citizens rose massively from 31,196 in 2017 to 164,682 in the previous year. The NSA is silent on the selectors used against foreigners.

There is a decline in the statistics for the no less controversial National Security Letters (NSL). This allows the FBI to ask providers and other private entities to provide information about their customers without the affected companies being allowed to publicly disclose it. The number of requests for information, which were generally broad-based, was 10,235 in 2018, compared with 12,762 in the previous year. The police department queried 38,872 sets of information (2017: 41,579).

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