One effect of the Snowden leaks is that the NSA now makes an annual disclosure of the extent of its domestic surveillance operations; that's how we know that the NSA collected 534 million phone call and text message records (time, date, location, from, to — but not the content), which more than triples its surveillance takings in 2016.
The NSA could not explain why it tripled its domestic surveillance project in 2017.
Prior to the Snowden revelations, the NSA was collecting billions of comparable records every day.
At the start of this year, the Senate voted to extend the NSA's power to conduct warrantless mass-surveillance.
The government "has not altered the manner in which it uses its authority to obtain call detail records," Timothy Barrett, a spokesman at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the annual report, said in a statement.
The NSA has found that a number of factors may influence the amount of records collected, Barrett said. These included the number of court-approved selection terms, which could be a phone number of someone who is potentially the subject of an investigation, or the amount of historical information retained by phone service providers, Barrett said.
Spy agency NSA triples collection of U.S. phone records: official report [Dustin Volz/Reuters]
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