DNI Issues 2016 Report on Use of National Security Authorities

Highlights from the DNI's Statistical Transparency Report Regarding Use of National Security Authorities for Calendar Year 2016

There is no shortage of controversy surrounding surveillance authorities nowadays. From Russian hacking to General Flynn phone calls to President Trump's tweets to Susan Rice's unmasking, it's hard to keep it all straight. Thankfully, there is some hard data we can analyze to wrap our heads around the various types of surveillance and how they impact Americans. Yesterday, the Director of National Intelligence issued its Statistical Transparency Report Regarding Use of National Security Authorities for 2016. The report describes the various authorities, the number of targets, and important data on U.S. persons. Here are the highlights:

  • FISA probable cause orders -- these are orders issued for electronic surveillance or physical searches that require the government to establish probable cause that the target is an agent of a foreign power.
    • Of the 1,687 probable cause orders issued in 2016, 336 (or roughly 20%) of the orders targeted U.S. persons.
  • FISA 702 collection -- 702 allows the targeting of foreign persons outside the United States who use American communication providers or whose communications transit American networks.
    • 106,469 person were targeted for collection under 702
    • 5,288 U.S. person "identifiers" (for instance, email addresses) were used by the NSA and CIA to search 702 content
    • The FBI reports that 1 search of 702 data using a U.S. person identifier returned a hit (the FBI routinely searches all of its databases, including FISA databases, as part of its investigations and cannot quantify how many searches of 702 are with a U.S. person identifier. Under order from the FISA Court, the FBI must report the instances in which a 702 query returns information about a U.S. person).
  • FISA 702 intelligence reports -- these are the reports written by intelligence analysts that contain information collected under 702. These reports may contain information about U.S. persons. U.S. person identities are masked unless they are deemed necessary to understand the intelligence or evidence of a crime.
    • 3,914 reports contained U.S. person identities; of those reports, 2,964 contained masked U.S. person identities and 1,200 contained unmasked identities.
    • of the 2,964 originally masked U.S. person identities, 1,934 were subsequently unmasked upon request
  • FISA Business Records Orders -- these are orders issued under what's commonly known as Section 215, the source of the now defunct bulk metadata program leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013. That program was replaced with a targeted collection program, known as the Call Detail Record or CDR program by the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015. Section 215 is also used by the FBI to acquire third party business records in counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence investigations ("traditional" business records orders)
    • 40 CDR orders were issued against 42 targets; these 40 orders generated 151,230,968 records
    • 84 traditional business records orders were obtained by the FBI against 88 targets.

You can read the DNI report at IC on the Record: https://icontherecord.tumblr.com/transparency/odni_transparencyreport_cy2016


Caroline Lynch