The National Security Agency released its first transparency report on mass surveillance. While it revealed very specific statistics about the exact number of “targets” it has watched, a target can be one individual or an entire organization.
Under it’s most controversial legal program, Section 702 of the USA Freedom Act, the NSA admits to affecting 89,138 targets’ communications [PDF].
But the word “target” is a sly trick, since a target can be an organization.
“One target, in the number 89,000, one could be 20 or 100 individual people,” explains Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Mark Rumold.
According to the NSA’s explanation, if there are multiple email addresses for one person, and the NSA isn’t aware of each account, it could be double-counting this targeting.
But the more likely scenario is that most targets represents multiple people.
“There’s no way that the 89,000 figure is the floor … the ceiling is likely much, much higher,” he says.
More interesting is that while many other NSA requests need one or more court approvals, the entire Section 702 program was approved with just one order. “Section 702 completely removes the judiciary,” warned Rumold.
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