The Obama Administration sought unredacted intel on thousands of Americans during the 2016 election, including those in President Trump’s campaign and transition team, according to a new report.
“During his final year in office, President Obama’s team significantly expanded efforts to search National Security Agency intercepts for information about Americans, distributing thousands of intelligence reports across government with the unredacted names of U.S. residents during the midst of a divisive 2016 presidential election,” reported Circa on Thursday. “The data, made available this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, provides the clearest evidence to date of how information accidentally collected by the NSA overseas about Americans was subsequently searched and disseminated after President Obama loosened privacy protections to make such sharing easier in 2011 in the name of national security. A court affirmed his order.”
The NSA is currently prohibited from spying directly on U.S. citizens. However, it is reported that “In all, government officials conducted 30,355 searches in 2016 seeking information about Americans in NSA intercept metadata, which include telephone numbers and email addresses.”
The activity increased by 27.5 percent over the prior year, according to the report, and “more than triple the 9,500 such searches that occurred in 2013, the first year such data was kept.”
“The government in 2016 also scoured the actual contents of NSA intercepted calls and emails for 5,288 Americans, an increase of 13 percent over the prior year and a massive spike from the 198 names searched in 2013,” Circa claimed. “The searches ultimately resulted in 3,134 NSA intelligence reports with unredacted U.S. names being distributed across government in 2016, and another 3,354 reports in 2015. About half the time, U.S. identities were unredacted in the original reports while the other half were unmasked after the fact by special request of Obama administration officials.”
Included in this list of names were campaign and transition associates of President Trump, as well as members of Congress, according to Circa, who allegedly spoke with a U.S. official.
“There is no doubt that there was a spike in the requests to search for Americans in the NSA database,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s simply easier for people to make requests. And while we have safeguards, there is always concern and vigilance about possible political or prurient motives that go beyond national security concerns.”
Neema Singh Guliani, who acts as the ACLU’s legislative counsel, also claimed in a comment that the information being “increasingly mined about Americans” has nothing to do with terrorism.
“I think it is alarming. There seems to be a universal trend toward more surveillance and more surveillance that impacts Americans’ privacy without obtaining a warrant,” said the ACLU’s legislative counsel, Neema Singh Guliani. “This data confirms that there is a lack of acknowledgment that information is being specifically and increasingly mined about Americans for investigations that have little or nothing to do with international terrorism.”
Caveated in the report, however, is that this data excludes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who are likely to have even more information on the subject.
“The data kept by ODNI is missing some information from one of the largest consumers of NSA intelligence, the FBI,” Circa noted. “And officials acknowledge the numbers are likely much higher when the FBI’s activity is added.”
This week, it was reported that the NSA ignored a law change and continued to collect phone records from U.S. citizens, while in April, it was revealed that the agency had eavesdropped on citizens using a blimp over Maryland.