Appearing before the Senate judiciary committee, John Inglis, the NSA's deputy director, conceded that his agents can track the telephone activities of millions of Americans while searching for one terrorism suspect, but said that agents "try to be judicious" in their searches.At 2.5 million each (using their 40 contacts per person assumption, it rounds to 2.6 million), that would add up to possibly 750 million people affected by records searches. With a total population of 314 million or so, that would more than allow for searches of the phone records of every single adult in the US.
The Obama administration has previously stated that such records are rarely searched and, when they are, officials target only suspected foreign terrorists.
The searches described to the judiciary committee hinge on the "chain" analysis of information gathered on telephone communications. When the NSA identifies a suspect, it can look not just at their phone records, but also the records of everyone they call, everyone who calls those people and everyone who calls those people.
If the average person called 40 people, the analysis would allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspect. The NSA conducted 300 such searches last year.
Tags: domestic spying