Intelligence reports about the NSA’s collection and analysis of phone metadata are now being reviewed and declassified, with one source saying that the agency is going to no longer rely on “a black box” that can be accessed only by a court-approved warrant.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters, said that a declassification of the reports is the best way to make sure that “people don’t get the wrong impression” about the government’s surveillance activities.
“That’s what we’re trying to do here,” the source said.
The NSA has said it needs a legal basis to collect phone records.
But analysts have argued that a court warrant authorizing the collection of phone data would be necessary for a wide range of purposes, including protecting national security.
The intelligence reports were produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which oversees the NSA and the National Security Agency.
The ODI report released last week on NSA collection of metadata, which is overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, said the agency had been collecting the records for the past six months, although it did not specify when or how.
In the report, the ODI acknowledged that the NSA had been relying on court-authorized phone records to monitor terrorist plots, but said that “it is not necessary to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on domestic calls.”
But the report said that while the NSA was not relying on a black box, the agency still was collecting the information to support intelligence gathering, and that it could not have obtained the records without the court approval.
The report said the NSA “does not need a court order to obtain records of domestic calls for counterterrorism purposes.”
The NSA’s efforts to acquire phone metadata were disclosed in June after the House Intelligence Committee approved a bill that would have reformed the NSA collection practices.
The bill would have authorized the NSA to collect metadata on the number of times each call was made, the duration of the call, the time and location of the calls, and the duration and duration of calls between phone numbers in a single day.
The legislation would have also required that the government must obtain a court’s approval to access metadata.
But the NSA declined to support the bill, saying it would not be necessary to change the NSA procedures that the bill would authorize.
“There’s nothing in this bill that prevents us from continuing to collect data about domestic phone calls,” said the intelligence official.
“We’ll continue to use that information to help us in other ways.”
The official added that the intelligence community has been working on a legal strategy to address privacy concerns and to reform the NSA program.
“If we were to stop doing the surveillance, that would mean that we could no longer collect information about people in the United States,” the intelligence source said, adding that the US government is already using a “black box” to monitor the metadata of foreign targets.
“It’s the same black box that we’re using to track all our phone calls, including to other countries.”
The agency has been reviewing and declassifying reports that the spy agency has collected on foreign targets for the last three years, according to an intelligence official, who said the review process has been ongoing.
In a March report to Congress, the Office for the Director for National Intelligence said the agencies review of the metadata collection was “ongoing and ongoing.”
The OODNI report said it is reviewing a set of surveillance reports to determine how to improve its collection practices and “provide more meaningful oversight and accountability.”
The intelligence community is working to ensure that the reports are not “misleading or misleading,” the OODI report said.
“This is a critical process for our intelligence community to get better at gathering and analyzing information, including about potential foreign threats,” the report added.
The government said it would be releasing more information about the report in the coming weeks.
The surveillance reports were part of a public release of the documents that was made public earlier this month by the US Senate Intelligence Committee.
The documents were provided to Congress by a whistleblower, who revealed that the CIA had been monitoring the phone records of hundreds of Americans.
“The CIA has been spying on everyone’s calls,” the whistleblower told the Senate Intelligence committee.
The agency said it had not used the documents for its own purposes.