National Security Agency documents provided to The Guardian by Edward Snowden reveal a system that allows analysts to search “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.”
Glenn Greenwald reports that training materials for a program called XKeyscore show how analysts — without the review of a court or other NSA personnel — can mine extensive agency databases by giving only a broad justification for the search.
“It’s very rare to be questioned on our searches,” Snowden told the Guardian in June, “and even when we are, it’s usually along the lines of: ‘let’s bulk up the justification.'”
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.
Furthermore, Greenwald reports that analysts can use XKeyscore and other NSA systems “to obtain ongoing ‘real-time’ interception of an individual’s internet activity.”
This would be akin to the NSA’s assertion, as stated in 2000, that the “NSA must ‘live on the network'” to “perform both its offensive and defensive mission.”
The Guardian has published several NSA training slides from the program, one showing how XKeyscore constantly collects digital activity and that an analyst can search the metadata as well as the content of emails, social media use, internet browsing activity and more.
Greenwald reports that analysts “can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.”
The NSA documents state 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore as of 2008.
In regards to emails, one top-secret document provided by Snowden describes how an analyst can plug an email address into the program and XKeyscore “searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents,” including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines” and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites.”
As is clear by now, these databases include “communications that transit the United States and communications that terminate in the United States,” as one NSA document notes.
Greenwald presents several slides and reports that an NSA analyst can ” begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus,” noting that the surveillance options include “the content of Facebook chats or private messages.”
The NSA documents corroborate what Snowden told the Guardian in June:
“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email,” Snowden said in a video interview.
Greenwald notes that Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, responded by saying: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
Based on the XKeyscore training documents, Snowden could do that and much more.
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