NSA Surveillance Programs Reach 75 Percent of U.S. Internet Communications
August 21, 2013 11:51 AM
Officials said it's in search of foreign communications
Thanks to former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, it's no secret that the NSA has
far-reaching surveillance programs
to peek into the digital lives of Americans and abroad -- but we're starting to see just how far-reaching those programs really are.
According to a new report by
The Wall Street Journal
, the NSA's surveillance network covers 75 percent of U.S. internet traffic.
While the report noted that the NSA filtered information in search of communications that start/end abroad or are entirely foreign (but pass through the U.S.), it also said that the NSA keeps the content of some emails sent between U.S. citizens. The NSA also filters domestic phone calls, which are made over the web
In other words, domestic communications are intercepted when looking for foreign ones, and the NSA can track nearly anything that occurs online as long as there's a "broad" court order to cover it.
The NSA carries out its filtering with telecom companies (like Verizon and AT&T) through programs code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium, Stormbrew, etc. It takes place at over a dozen locations at major Internet junctions.
The NSA insists that it isn't just randomly searching through Internet traffic. The programs use algorithms that act like filters, allowing certain information to just pass through while others of interest are collected.
The NSA programs are approved by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and the NSA is required to terminate information on U.S. citizens that doesn't qualify as relevant information, such as foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime. However, this new report shows that not all is discarded.
Last week, reports said that the NSA admitted to
touching 1.6 percent of total globe Web traffic
. Its technique was to filter data after harvesting it, which led to overcollection on a major scale.
Days later, an internal audit showed that the NSA broke the law
nearly 3,000 times
from 2011 to 2012. More specifically, the May 2012 audit revealed that the NSA had
abused its power
to either accidentally or intentionally
spy on Americans
and green card holders 2,997 times in that time period.
U.S. President Barack Obama will unveil proposed changes to NSA surveillance this month to "improve oversight," but such changes wouldn't alter certain U.S. systems used for sensitive surveillance.
The NSA is making some changes as well, such as
axing 90 percent of its system administrators
in favor of automated systems. That way, the NSA doesn't have to worry about what human eyes are seeing -- and it will eliminate another Snowden situation.
The Wall Street Journal
"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes
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