NSA says it doesn’t know when it spys on Americans

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The National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on United States citizens and it has been doing so for years. This is no speculation, it is something that has been in the news for weeks now and is more or less accepted by everyone. Now, however, the NSA says that while they do collect data, they have no way of knowing if the people they are spying on are Americans.

Robert Litt, general counsel for the NSA, told the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy that to determine who was an American citizen would be a greater invasion into that person’s privacy. He also said it would be “very resource intensive” to determine if the foreign targets they are monitoring are communicating with U.S. citizens.

Despite Litt’s explanations, the committee’s chair Al Franken, the senator from Minnesota, believes it would be possible for the NSA to at least determine if their foreign targets are in fact communicating with Americans. He believes that “statistical sampling” could make that determination for them.

Franken went on to say, “Isn’t it a bad thing that the NSA doesn’t even have a rough sense of how many Americans have had their information collected under a law … that specifically prohibits targeting Americans?”

Franken has authored a bill, the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, that would allow companies to report the number of governmental requests they receive each year.

[via Ars Technica, image via Electronic Frontier Foundation]

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