Under President Barack Obama's administration, the National Security Agency allegedly searched through the internet data of hundreds of people, which may have been a violation of the law.
According to an internal write-up that Circa reportedly obtained, NSA data searches shot up by three times and identity unmasking increased sharply as well after Obama changed internet surveillance requirements in 2011. Obama officials reportedly disclosed the actions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court days before President Donald Trump won the November election.
"The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries [in violation] of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court," the ruling states, according to the Circa report released on May 24.
More than one out of every 20 -- five percent -- of upstream searches in the NSA's Section 702 database on Americans was said to violate the new 2011 rules, says the internal report.
"If we determine this to be true, this is an enormous abuse of power," Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said during a March 24 interview with Fox News, according to Circa. "This will dwarf all other stories."
Paul said in a tweet posted earlier in May that he "formally requested" information from both the White House and Intelligence Committees on whether or not either of them spied on him, notes The Hill.
"Did the Obama admin go after presidential candidates, members of Congress, journalists, clergy, lawyers, fed judges?" he added, according to The Hill.
The reports did not state that the NSA specifically intended to unmask any high-profile targets.
"We shouldn't suck up everybody's phone calls and everybody's internet transmission, and the danger is, and one of the accusations ... is that they were looking at this information politically, searching opponents, and going after people in the Trump transition to try to bring them down," Paul told Fox News on May 24, according to The Daily Mail.
When the court heard the disclosures, it stated that the reported violations created a "serious Fourth Amendment issue" and displayed an "institutional lack of candor," said an unsealed court document from April 2017, notes Circa.
"I think it does call into question all those defenses that we kept hearing, that we always have a robust oversight structure and we have culture of adherence to privacy standards," said ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani. "And the headline now is they actually haven't been in compliance for years."
Sources: Circa, Daily Mail, The Hill / Photo credit: Michael P. Snody/U.S.Marine Corps via Wikimedia Commons