A group of US contractors have used the NSA’s “special access program” to target American citizens with targeted data collection, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
The report, written by two former NSA employees, was published in full by the newspaper and cited unnamed US government officials.
The Post said the program, called the Targeted Access Operations (TAO), was run from 2008-2015 by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which oversees the NSA and its intelligence agencies.
The program was a key part of President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
The NSA had said in 2015 that the program was “not authorized” by Congress and that the NSA did not use it.
The NSA and the NRO declined to comment on the report.
The NRO was set up in 2010 by former President Barack Obama to spy at home and abroad on foreign leaders.
But it was shut down by Congress in 2015 after revelations that the agency was collecting information on US citizens.
The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday that US officials have described the TAO as an integral part of the NSA.
In one example, in 2014, the NSA used a software program called Tailored Access Operations to monitor the activities of the Pakistani intelligence agency, according to the Guardian.
The agency had previously been allowed to use the tool to track foreign fighters, and officials said the tool helped the agency identify individuals with links to terrorist groups.
The Washington Post said US officials told the Post that the TAOS had targeted at least four individuals in Pakistan and at least one in Yemen.
A US government spokesperson declined to discuss the details of the story.
The Pentagon has also said it was not authorized to use NSA surveillance tools to target Americans.