The National Security Agency monitored nearly 125 billion phone calls in just one month, according to a number of new reports.
And while the majority of calls reportedly originated in the Middle East, an estimated 3 billion of the calls originated in the U.S.
According to a collection of the reports and leaked classified government files, the monitored calls took place throughout the month of January 2013 and tallied to 124.8 billion.
Cryptome, a site that posts government and corporate documents, combined the various documents and says the largest share of calls originated in Afghanistan (21.98 billion) and Pakistan (12.76 billion). Elsewhere in the Middle East, billions of calls were monitored in Iraq (7.8 billion), Saudi Arabia (7.8 billion), Egypt (1.9 billion), Iran (1.73 billion) and Jordan (1.6 billion).
So, if true, how did the U.S. successfully intercept so many phone calls from around the world? Another document posted by Cryptome on Wednesday purports to show a graph released by the NSA’s PRISM program. The graph explains that many “target” international calls pass through U.S. carriers because they are less expensive. “A target’s phone call, email or chat will take the cheapest path, not the physically most direct route,” the graph explains. “You can’t always predict the path. Your target’s communication could easily be flowing into and through the U.S.”
On Wednesday, the White House denied claims that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls from her personal cellphone were among 361 million calls in Germany that were reportedly monitored during the same period.
Merkel reportedly personally “quizzed” President Barack Obama about the allegation during a recent phone conversation between the two.
"The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in response.
The Merkel spying allegation comes on the heels of a Sunday report from Cryptome, which says the U.S. also spied on calls made by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Also on Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied a report in Le Monde, which said the NSA has spied on 70 million phone calls originating in France.
“The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million ‘recordings of French citizens' telephone data’ is false,” Clapper said in a statement.
“While we are not going to discuss the details of our activities, we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. The U.S. collects intelligence to protect the nation, its interests, and its allies from, among other things, threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
India was the other country listed with more than a billion calls monitored (6.28 billion). In a September report, the Hindu newspaper said information provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows the calls were intercepted using the PRISM and Boundless Informant programs.