WASHINGTON - The US government only searched for detailed information on calls involving fewer than 300 specific phone numbers among the millions of raw phone records collected by the National Security Agency in 2012, according to a government paper obtained by Reuters on Saturday.
The unclassified paper was circulated Saturday within the government by US intelligence agencies and apparently is an attempt by spy agencies and the Obama administration to rebut accusations that it overreached in investigating potential militant plots.
The administration has said that even though the NSA, according to top-secret documents made public by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, collects massive amounts of data on message traffic from both US based telephone and internet companies, such data collection is legal, subject to tight controls and does not intrude on the privacy of ordinary Americans.
The paper circulated on Saturday said that data from the NSA phone and email collections programs not only led US investigators to the ringleader of a plot to attack New York's subway system in 2009, but also to one of his co-conspirators in the United States.
The paper discusses an NSA program that collects "metadata" - raw information that does not identify individual telephone subscribers - from major US phone companies showing all calls made by those companies' subscribers to phones within the United States and overseas.