NSA Paper: Fewer Than 300 Phone Numbers Examined in Detail

NSA also claims the phone data led to the leader of a plot to attack the New York subway system
US News • Views: 20,549

Reuters is reporting that they’ve obtained an unclassified “government paper” saying the US government only accessed detailed information on fewer than 300 phone numbers, out of the millions of pieces of metadata they collected in 2012 — and that this information directly led to the thwarting of terrorist plots.

(Reuters) - The U.S. government only searched for detailed information on calls involving fewer than 300 specific phone numbers among the millions of raw phone records collected by the National Security Agency in 2012, according to a government paper obtained by Reuters on Saturday.

The unclassified paper was circulated Saturday within the government by U.S. intelligence agencies and apparently is an attempt by spy agencies and the Obama administration to rebut accusations that it overreached in investigating potential militant plots.

The paper circulated on Saturday said that data from the NSA phone and email collections programs not only led U.S. investigators to the ringleader of a plot to attack New York’s subway system in 2009, but also to one of his co-conspirators in the United States.

The paper discusses an NSA program that collects “metadata” - raw information that does not identify individual telephone subscribers - from major U.S. phone companies showing all calls made by those companies’ subscribers to phones within the United States and overseas.

It also mentions another NSA program, called Prism in leaked documents, that collects from internet companies what the paper says are emails of foreigners who might be of interest to counterterrorism or counter-proliferation investigators.

Millions of phone records were collected in 2012, but the paper says U.S. authorities only looked in detail at the records linked to fewer than 300 phone numbers.

A person familiar with details of the program said the figure of fewer than 300 numbers applied to the entire mass of raw telephone “metadata” collected last year by the NSA from U.S. carriers - not just to Verizon, which is the only telephone company identified in a document disclosed by Snowden as providing such data to the NSA.

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