Barack Obama's National Security Agency conducted illegal searches of hundreds of users' Internet data after the former president relaxed the rules on government snooping.
The Obama administration also upped the number of Americans it had unmasked in intelligence reports, Circa reported, renewing concerns among civil liberty groups that Americans' Fourth Amendment rights were routinely violated.
Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that it also raises questions about the motivations that Obama aides like Susan Rice had when they requested the names of Americans whose identities were obscured in surveillance reports.
If Rice and others did it for political purposes, to hurt Donald Trump for instance, that would be an 'amazing abuse of power,' he told Fox & Friends.
Barack Obama's National Security Agency conducted illegal searches of hundreds of users' Internet data. It also upped the number of Americans it had unmasked in intelligence reports, renewing concerns that aides like Susan Rice were violating American's Fourth Amendment rights.
The new allegations against the former president and his administration stem from a once top secret information in a Wednesday report.
One out of every 20 searches of Internet data the NSA performed in its database after 2011 violated the safeguard the administration was supposed to be adhering to, Circa says.
The administration admitted to the violations during a secret court hearing in October, just before Donald Trump was elected, but those documents were sealed until last month.
According to Cirica, the proceedings revealed concerns that the administration had been honest about its practices and had a 'very serious Fourth Amendment issue' on its hands.
Rice, a former national security advisor to Obama, has claimed that she did not unmask Trump associates for sport, and had followed the letter of the law with her unmasking requests. The ex-official has said she only asked the information when she needed it to understand the intelligence she had been presented.
Former CIA director James Clapper offered similar testimony before a Senate panel in early May.
Circa's report cast doubt on the administration's claims that the spying it did was always warranted, citing the court documents.
'Since 2011, NSA’s minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collections under Section 702,' the file reportedly says.
'The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries inviolation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.'
The American Civil Liberties Union told the publication that the disclosure emphasizes 'the shocking lack of oversight of these programs' that has most likely continued in the Trump administration.
'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,' Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, said.
The NSA silently announced that it would 'no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target' in an April 28 notice on its website, Circa said.
Paul said Wednesday that he continues to be concerned about rampant spying, because 'millions and millions of phone calls and emails' that mention a foreign official are being swept up.
'We shouldn't suck up everybody's phone calls and everybody's internet transmission,' he told Fox, 'and the danger is, and one of he accusations of Susan Rice and others, is that they were looking at thus information politically, searching opponents, and going after people in the Trump transition to try to bring them down.'
If the allegations are true, 'this is an enormous story, and it will dwarf all the other stories,' he said.
'If we can determine this to be true, this is an amazing abuse of power, and it dwarfs any of the other sort of made up stuff that we're sort of looking into now'
Paul also called for better oversight of government spying initiatives.
'Some of these phone calls we just frankly shouldn't be listening to,' he asserted.