The U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, on Wednesday, denied media reports that claimed the agency’s surveillance programs could cover about 75 percent of all Internet communications in the U.S., saying the reports “mischaracterize” aspects of NSA’s data filtering conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
In a joint statement issued in response to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which originally published the story, NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the agency “touches” only about 1.6 percent of the world’s Internet traffic and analysts only look at 0.00004 percent of it.
“Media reports based upon the recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article regarding NSA’s foreign intelligence activities provide an inaccurate and misleading picture of NSA’s collection programs, but especially with respect to NSA’s use of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),” the statement said.
“The reports leave readers with the impression that NSA is sifting through as much as 75% of the United States’ online communications, which is simply not true,” NSA said, adding that the assistance from telecommunications providers was previously revealed as part of Section 702 of FISA.
The Journal reported, on Tuesday, that NSA’s surveillance programs filter email communications, including content and email addresses of senders and receivers, and also access domestic phone calls made over the Internet.
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“Intentional acquisition” of any communication known to be taking place within the U.S. and targeting a U.S. citizen without an individual court order is not permitted under Section 702, NSA said.
While targeting foreign individuals who are suspected of terrorist activities, and who may be in contact with a U.S. citizen inside or outside the U.S., the NSA tends to filter both sides of the communication, the statement said, but added that, for filtering any communication involving a U.S. citizen, the agency is required to follow “minimization procedures” approved by FISA.
“The collection under FISA section 702 is the most significant tool in the NSA collection arsenal for the detection, identification, and disruption of terrorist threats to the U.S. and around the world,” the statement said.