A new report showed that former President Obama went looking for information on tens of thousands of Americans during the 2016 election and circulated it without redacting their names.
The president’s team used NSA technology to scour metadata and communications of more than 30,000 citizens according to information released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence this week.
The information was then disbursed to various government agencies with the names of the citizens not withheld, Circa reported.
“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,” the report read. “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.”
“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,” according to the report.
The data officially only involved non-citizens abroad that use email servers and other infrastructure, but critics complain that the NSA search tools are strong and routinely include data on American citizens who get included in the sweeps.
“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,” American Civil Liberty Union attorney Neema Singh Guliani said.
“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.”
The total number of Americans searched for, 30,355, represented a 27.5 percent increase from the previous year.
Campaign associates and members of President Donald Trump’s transition team were included in the sweep, according to the report.
“There is no doubt that there was a spike in the requests to search for Americans in the NSA database,” according to an official, who remained anonymous. “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.”
Officials also searched for the contents of communications of 5,288 Americans, a major increase from the 198 searched for in 2013.
“The data kept by ODNI is missing some information from one of the largest consumers of NSA intelligence, the FBI,” Circa reported. “And officials acknowledge the numbers are likely much higher when the FBI’s activity is added.”
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