The NSA has denied that it uses the controversial “upstream” collection program, but the program has been in the news recently, particularly after it emerged that the agency had obtained data on Americans from a number of other sources.
In a series of articles last week, several news outlets reported on the program, including a Washington Post story on Tuesday that reported that the NSA had collected and stored “upwards of 40 million phone records.”
But as Recode reported on Tuesday, the program is “a collection of data” that does not target any specific individual, but rather “data from multiple sources,” including the US and foreign governments.
“In addition, the metadata that NSA collects includes a wide range of data including names, addresses, phone numbers, duration, duration in transit, duration of call, call time, duration on call, time of call and time of arrival,” the agency said in a statement to Recode.
Recode’s story, however, noted that this metadata is not the same as the actual phone records that are collected and used in the NSA collection program.
“This metadata is only used to help determine who a person is based on the content of their phone calls,” the Post said.
The agency has denied using the “up” collection collection program in a previous statement to The Intercept.
The Washington Post’s story cited documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed in June that the government had been collecting the phone records of Americans since at least 2012.
Recoding reached out to the NSA for comment on Recode and received a statement from the agency saying that the program does not collect any “specific content” from Americans’ phone records.
“We do not collect specific content based on specific identifiers or the content itself,” the statement read.
“All metadata collected is collected in the United States.”
However, the agency did not respond to Recodes questions on what “specific” content it collects and what metadata it uses to determine that a person’s information is not related to any specific person.
Recodes’ report follows a similar report from Recode earlier this month that said the government was collecting the metadata of Americans for six years before the Snowden leaks.
The NSA denied the claims in a Wednesday statement to Ars Technica, saying that there was “no data collection for six or more years before 2013.”
The agency did, however.
“These are not the data that the public needs to know,” the NSA statement said.
“The metadata collected by the NSA is based solely on an analysis of a large amount of metadata from a large number of sources and is not based on any specific content.
The metadata that we collect is based entirely on the information that the Government of the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates collect in relation to a variety of subjects and is used solely for law enforcement purposes.”
Recode also pointed out that the Washington Post has reported on information from Snowden, and that it has also provided the public with some of the details of the program.
In its own statement, the NSA said that the bulk phone records program is only “part of a broader collection” of data “that includes the data from other intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”