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The White House in 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Obama administration quietly agreed to allow the National Security Agency to share with foreign intelligence agencies data on millions of American phone calls, according to newly declassified documents and interviews with officials.

The policy is known as the “Bulk Collection Program,” but it is also known as “Snooper’s Charter,” a nickname for a legal justification the NSA secretly applied to justify the collection of information from telephone companies.

The documents provide the most detailed evidence yet of NSA programs that go beyond what the Obama administration originally declared, and some of the most detailed evidence yet of how the government has interpreted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.

For several months, the NSA has quietly been collecting the “metadata” about phone calls from major U.S. phone companies, allowing it to look at call history records without obtaining a warrant, according to the documents.

The NSA does this with the cooperation of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in a program called CALEA, a 2008 law. The companies were originally given a narrow authority to collect data on their customers under CALEA — and to keep it for four years.

With CALEA, the law allowed the companies to gather customer data even if the government had obtained a court order and kept the data for five years.

The new documents show that the surveillance on CALEA has expanded dramatically since the program was first announced in 2009, even beyond what U.S. officials had said at the time. Now, the NSA is collecting metadata from major U.S. phone companies on all of the calls made by subscribers in one area. At least three companies — AT&T, Verizon and Verizon Wireless — are part of the program.

The government has no idea how many Americans have