A wide range of officials that include those outside the NSA potentially have access to the agency’s bulk phone records, according to newly declassified documents that also reveal that the agency has had “compliance problems” with these databases in the past.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday released 3 previously secret documents, just as intelligence officials started to testify on Capitol Hill at a high-profile Senate hearing on government surveillance.

They start to shed light on how the NSA collects and goes over reams of digital data on the phone and email records of millions. The documents once again stress that these programs enable the government to collect basic information about phone calls and email communications, but not the content of those messages. They say most of the information “is never reviewed,” while giving a description of the programs as vital to the “early warning system” for discovering terror plots.


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