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NSA releases first statistics on surveillance sweep

The US National Security Agency released its first "transparency report" on Friday, as part of an effort to quell the firestorm over reports of its massive data collection efforts.

WASHINGTON: The US National Security Agency (NSA) released its first "transparency report" on Friday, as part of an effort to quell the firestorm over reports of its massive data collection efforts.

The NSA report said that in 2013, it obtained fewer than 2,000 orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

That included 1,767 orders based on "probable cause" for an investigation, and 131 orders allowing the agency to collect data using a so-called "pen register" or "trap and trace."

The agency said it obtained just one order using Section 702 of the FISA intelligence law, which facilitates gathering foreign intelligence data on non-American people, groups or organizations outside the United States.

But the number of "targets," which could be persons or organizations, was 89,138 last year.

The NSA said it made 178 applications under the law's bulk collection or "business records" provision - which allows the agency to sweep up vast amounts of telephone metadata.

That enabled the NSA to make a total of 423 specific queries last year to gather more data, along with queries on 248 "known or presumed US persons" and 172 other "individuals, entities or foreign powers."

The report said 19,212 "national security letters" or administrative subpoenas that allow the FBI to collect information without a warrant, were issued last year that contained 38,832 requests for information.

The intelligence agency, which has come under fire following news of massive data collection capabilities, said it released the report under a June 2013 directive from President Barrack Obama.

The directive ordered the agency to "declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive US government surveillance programs while protecting sensitive classified intelligence and national security information."

The agency said it would continue to do so on an annual basis.

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