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NSA used phone records program to seek Iran operatives

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has used its bulk domestic phone records program to search for operatives from the government of Iran and "associated terrorist organizations," not just al-Qaida and its allies, according to a document obtained by the New York Times.

The document also shows that a February 2010 order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for the program listed AT&T and Sprint as involved in it. A 2013 court order listed only subsidiaries of Verizon Communications as part of the program.

The inclusion of Iran and allied terrorist groups — presumably the Shiite group Hezbollah — and the confirmation of the names of other participating companies add new details to public understanding of the once-secret program. The Bush administration created the program to try to find hidden terrorist cells on domestic soil after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The disclosure of the new details comes at a time of debates over a proposed agreement to drop sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

In June, Congress enacted a law that will ban the systematic collection of domestic phone records after November, and create a replacement program for analyzing links between callers in search of associates of terrorism suspects.

The document was included in about 350 pages of NSA inspector general reports about the program the government provided to the Times late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.