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Warrantless searches of Americans’ data spiked 28 percent in 2018

The number of foreign citizens targeted by the NSA also jumped.
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ASSOCIATED PRESS

An annual transparency report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shows warrantless searches of Americans' data jumped 28 percent in 2018. According to the report, the National Security Agency (NSA) conducted 9,637 warrantless search queries of Americans' calls, texts, and emails in 2018. That's up from 7,512 searches in 2017, and it's more than double the 4,672 warrantless searches the NSA made in 2015.

While Americans are typically protected from unwarranted searches by the Fourth Amendment, some of their data gets caught when NSA collects intelligence on foreigners living overseas. This year's report also reveals that the NSA monitored the communication of an estimated 164,770 foreign individuals or groups in 2018, compared to 129,080 in 2017. As TechCrunch reports, that marks the largest year-over-year increase in foreign surveillance. In 2013, the NSA monitored the communication of just 89,138 foreigners.

Perhaps one silver lining is that the NSA collected fewer American phone records in 2018 -- 434.2 million, down from 534.3 million in 2017. But that's still a significant jump from 2016, when it collected 151.2 million records. These numbers might look a bit different next year, as the NSA has formally recommended the White House drop the phone surveillance program that collected that call information.

You can read the full report here.

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