Released under a 2013 directive from President Barack Obama.
The US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released the first ‘transparency report’ on massive surveillance activity carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The DNI report said last year the NSA received fewer than 2,000 orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, including 1,767 orders as per ‘probable cause’ for an enquiry, and 131 orders enabling the collection of incoming and outgoing phone numbers via ‘pen register’ or ‘trap and trace’.
During the year, the agency received only one order via Section 702 of the FISA intelligence law, which enables collection of foreign intelligence data on non-Americans, groups or associations outside the US.
Released under a June 2013 directive from President Barack Obama, the report noted that the overall targets during the year, including persons or organizations, reached 89,138.
About 178 applications were made under the law’s mass collection or ‘business records’ provision, under which 423 specific queries were made to collect more data, with queries on 248 known or presumed US individuals and 172 other individuals, entities or foreign powers.
The report added that about 19,212 national security letters were issued during 2013, which contain 38,832 requests seeking information.
In response to the NSA release, Google law enforcement director Richard Salgado said it represents a step in the right direction of increasing trust in both government and Internet services, but further steps are needed.
"These steps show that national security and transparency for the public are not in competition," Salgado added.
"We also hope that governments around the world will follow the lead of the U.S. government and be more open about the national security demands they serve on service providers and put out comparable transparency reports.
"Congress, and other governments around the world, should build on these steps."
However, the NSA would now require a court-ordered warrant for searches after the House of Representatives voted 293-123 to approve a proposal to limit its ability to search US data records.