Even though the bulk collection of Americans' telephone records has ended, calls and emails are still being swept up by U.S. surveillance work targeting foreigners. Congress is making a renewed push to find out how many.
Six Republicans and eight Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have asked the nation's top intelligence official for the number of Americans' emails and phone calls collected under programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The programs target foreigners, but domestic communications sometimes are vacuumed up as well. They were first revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, who leaked files from the National Security Agency.
"Surely the American public is entitled to some idea of how many of our communications are swept up by these programs," the committee members wrote in their April 22 letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
They weren't the first to request the information.
In the past five years, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico have asked repeatedly. Last October, a coalition of more than 30 civil liberties groups wrote Clapper seeking the information. Unsatisfied with the answer they received, they wrote him again in January.