Washington Posthas unearthed a new controversial tactic from the National Security Agency — harvesting data from the online address books of American citizens.
Citing classified documents given to the Post by former NSA contractor turned leaker Edward Snowden, the paper reports that the organisation intercepts email contact lists to piece together connections and map the digital relationships of millions, including unsuspecting Americans, in the name of finding potential terror connections.
From the Post report:
During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million per year.
Two unnamed intelligence officials cited by the Post did not dispute that the number of Americans swept up in the program could total as many as tens of millions.
Perhaps most worrisome in this latest revelation is that the NSA does not have the legal authority to do this. Neither the U.S. Congress nor the secret FISA court have granted the NSA the right to gather the information in the online email records of U.S. citizens.
The Post report states that the NSA skirts this rather glaring obstacle by collecting said information off of U.S. soil.
“Because of the method employed, the agency is not legally required or technically able to restrict its intake to contact lists belonging to specified foreign intelligence targets,” the report says, citing an unnamed intelligence official.
It’s a stunning rationalization — a U.S. government agency collects data on U.S. citizens in violation of U.S. law by doing so away from U.S. soil.
Read the full report at the Washington Post.
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