U.S. releases data on sensitive surveillance programs for first time

The U.S. government on Friday for the first time released data on the scope of some of its most sensitive foreign intelligence-gathering efforts, saying that it had targeted nearly 90,000 foreign persons or organizations for surveillance through U.S. companies last year.

The release of the “transparency report,” issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, follows an order a year ago from President Obama to declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive surveillance programs.

Some privacy advocates said the figure was not as high as they had expected, but that it was also artificially low. They also said the report left out important data, such as the number of U.S. persons whose phone calls or e-mails were collected accidentally or because they were in contact with foreign targets.

“The intelligence community is hiding the extent to which this surveillance conducted without a warrant is impacting people in the United States, who have constitutional rights,” said Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology.