(Liz Klimas) A new report is out detailing another National Security Agency (NSA) spy program calling it, in its own words, a system able to collect and make searchable “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”
According to The Guardian, which was the first to start unveiling the breadth of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program as leaked to it by former government contractor Edward Snowden, the program dubbed XKeyscore covers everything from metadata — which was already revealed to have been collected — to email content, web searches and sites visited.
While the FBI has been openly seeking the ability to obtain real-time access to email activity and online chats, according to the Guardian, the NSA has already had access to such Internet activities as they are occurring.
XKeyscore doesn’t just associate information through email accounts either. The Guardian reported analysts with the NSA being able to search the database by name, telephone number IP address, keywords and more. Metadata, the Guardian stated of the documents about the program, could help analysts narrow down the selections they wanted to search.
Here’s more from the Guardian on how it works from a legal standpoint:
Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisawarrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.
The ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, told the Guardian last month that national security officials expressly said that a primary purpose of the new law was to enable them to collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without individualized warrants.
“The government doesn’t need to ‘target’ Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications,” said Jaffer. “The government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans” when targeting foreign nationals for surveillance.
An example is provided by one XKeyscore document showing an NSA target in Tehran communicating with people in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and New York.
The Guardian also notes the documents detailing information about XKeyscore stating that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been identified using information gathered by the system.
Snowden in a June interview with the Guardian revealed that as a contractor for Booz Allen, he had been able to use XKeyscore for search.
“To search for emails, an analyst using XKS enters the individual’s email address into a simple online search form, along with the ‘justification’ for the search and the time period for which the emails are sought,” the Guardian stated. “The analyst then selects which of those returned emails they want to read by opening them in NSA reading software.”