U.S. spying by the numbers — and leeway

Here’s the latest in the continuing government-spying saga:

No, we haven’t pledged allegiance to Captain Obvious, but this just in: The NSA is given a lot of leeway.

More specifically, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court gave the National Security Agency permission to keep tabs on the activities of 193 countries and other entities such as the World Bank and the European Union, according to a Washington Post report based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The report points out that the NSA doesn’t necessarily target all the countries and organizations, but that the capability exists.

Speaking of leeway, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Monday in response to questions from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that U.S. intelligence agencies last year searched for content and metadata of Americans thousands of times under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As its name indicates, FISA is supposed to allow U.S. government surveillance of foreign suspects, but Americans’ communications have also been targeted.

The numbers, according to Hillicon Valley: The NSA asked for content using U.S. selectors 198 times, and metadata about 9,500 times; the CIA searched for content less than 1,900 times but did not count the number of metadata searches; and the FBI did not keep track of its number of searches. (But the ODNI said in the letter that “the FBI believes the number of queries is substantial.”

As we wrote recently, the House of Representatives voted to limit the NSA’s power to obtain data without a warrant.

And for those keeping track at home, here’s a handy dandy ProPublica chart that tracks the spying revelations so far.


Photo: The National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press archives)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4265 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com