Director Of National Intelligence Publishes First Transparency Report On Surveillance

One of the most opaque government arms comes clean with a declassified report on the use of national security authorities.

Director Of National Intelligence Publishes First Transparency Report On Surveillance
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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has declassified and published a transparency report regarding the use of national security authorities in 2013, including surveillance orders, national security letters, and summoning of business records.


The report follows President Obama’s directive last year for the intelligence community to declassify as much information about U.S. government surveillance programs as it can without compromising national security or classified intelligence. The office said it will release a report every year.

Here are some highlights from the report:

In 2013, the agency issued 1,767 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders, affecting 1,144 targets, defined as a person, group, organization, or foreign power that “possesses or is likely to communicate foreign intelligence information that the U.S. government is authorized to acquire.”

Under Section 702 of FISA, which allows for mass collection of emails and phone calls, one order affected 89,138 targets. The NSA also issued 131 pen register, or trap and trace, orders, which track numbers called from particular phone lines, affecting 319 targets.

Last year, the Federal Bureau of Intelligence issued 19,212 national security letters and 38,832 requests for information. The report was unable to break down the number of targets affected because the agency is not required to track this information per congressional requirements.

Under Title V of FISA, the government can also collect business records in bulk, sometimes to learn more about specific subjects. In 2013, the government submitted 178 applications mentioning 423 selectors, or terms used to describe its requests, and this affected 420 people or entities.


Though this is a start, the American Civil Liberties Union blasted the office for information not revealed in the report. “The statistics also mask the vast number of Americans swept up in the government’s bulk collection programs, such as the NSA’s daily collection of Americans’ calling records en masse,” ACLU attorney Brett Max Kaufman said in a statement to Fast Company. “And the report gives no indication of how many of Americans’ international communications are scanned at the border under the government’s program of conducting surveillance not just of targets but ‘about’ them.”

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.