The National Security Agency, which collects Internet metadata in bulk, has processed 1 trillion pieces of that data — and the premier covert intelligence gathering organisation is getting better at it by the day.
On Thursday we pointed out that the newest reports Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian corroborate claims made by NSA whistleblower William Binney.
Binney, one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in National Security Agency (NSA) history, built a program called ThinThread and then quit the agency inb 2001 when the agency began using members of his team used to spy on millions Americans to spy on virtually every U.S. citizen under the code-name Stellar Wind.
ThinThread, according to Binney, was built to track electronic activities — phone calls, emails, banking and travel records, social media , etc. — and map them to collect “all the attributes that any individual has” in every type of activity and build a real-time profile based on that data.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, on December 31, 2012, an official with the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) reported that a surveillance program codenamed ShellTrumpet “had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record.”
The official wrote that the five-year old program “began as a near-real-time metadata analyzer … for a classic collection system” and that ShellTrumpet was being used “across the Agency.”
Basically, the NSA is collecting bulk Internet metadata — Greenwald and Ackerman note that “it is hard to distinguish email metadata from email content” (emphasis ours) — and then processing it to spy on American citizens.
“I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time,” Binney told documentarian Laura Poitras in “The Program.” Binney added that the purpose of the program is “to be able to monitor what people are doing” and who they are doing it with.
And here’s the kicker: the NSA is getting better at this data-mining by the day.
The December 2012 document stated that almost half of those trillion pieces of internet metadata were processed that year.
Russ Tice, the original NSA whistleblower, told Business Insider that in 2005 the NSA “didn’t have the capability to go after every American’s communications. There were three things they didn’t have: the computer processing capability, the power grid — they didn’t have enough electricity to go after everyone, and the biggest thing they didn’t have was the storage capability.”
A source inside the NSA today confirmed to Tice that increased capabilities allow the spy agency to copy “every domestic communication in this country, word for word, content, every phone conversation, every email — they are collecting everything in bulk and putting it in databases.”
And Binney recently told Zero Hedge that the government believes it can gather and use any information (including content) about American citizens living on U.S. soil if it comes from “any service provider … any third party … any commercial company – like a telecom or internet service provider, libraries, medical companies – holding data about anyone, any U.S. citizen or anyone else.”
Welcome to the surveillance Thunderdome.
No wonder Binney told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker that felt like he “should apologise to the American people. It’s violated everyone’s rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world.”
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