NSA surveillance strike rate sits at 11 percent: Report

NSA surveillance strike rate sits at 11 percent: Report

Summary: A Washington Post analysis of a sample of communications captured by the NSA over a four year period, has shown that roughly nine out of ten people caught in the NSA's surveillance were not targeted by the agency.

TOPICS: Security, Privacy

Looking at 22,000 surveillance reports, the Washington Post has reported that only 11 percent of people's communications collected by the agency in its digital surveillance activities are targets of the NSA.

The surveillance reports were provided to the newspaper by Edward Snowden, and contained approximately 160,000 intercepts from 2009 to 2012 — 121,000 of which were instant messages, 22,000 were email, and almost 8,000 documents — and although US authorities refused to verify the veracity of the reports, the newspaper said that requests were made to "withhold specific details that they said would alert the targets of ongoing surveillance".

Although citizens of the Five Eyes nations — the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand — had their details obfuscated or "minismised" to some extent, the labels were reported to be able to identify individuals, such as the term "minimized U.S. president" which was used 1,227 times. If surveilled account could somehow spuriously be identified as foreign, then the Post says that it was collected by the NSA, with an example of foreignness being given as a non-US IP address.

Last week it was revealed that the NSA's XKeyscore program was targeting readers of Linux Journal as "extremists", and would mark users for tracking if they searched for 'TAILs' or 'Amnesiac Incogneto Live System', along with one of either 'linux', 'USB', 'CD', 'secure desktop', 'IRC', 'truecrypt', and 'Tor'.

In response, the NSA said that XKeyscore is a tool of its lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system, and has stringent oversight and compliance mechanisms.

NSA collects only what it is authorized by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence purposes — regardless of the technical means used by foreign intelligence targets," it said. "The communications of people who are not foreign intelligence targets are of no use to the agency."

Topics: Security, Privacy


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • Nothing to worry about, it's only about foreigners

    Take 2 intelligence services. They are not from the same country. They are not allowed to collect data on their own people, but they are allowed to spy on everyone else.

    They are allowed to trade data with each other.
  • If Domestic Spying is Sedition or Treason...

    The U.S.A. used to execute domestic spies,

    now the Traitors in the District of Criminals pays them 1/3 Million a Year to commit the crimes
  • Spying on and stealing from your friends, turns them into your enemies.

    Spying on friends and allies is always “bad moral”, though admittedly in international politics moral has little credence. It’s a different thing altogether to undermine friendly nations international policy ambitions behind their backs, through spying on them, and steeling their business-secretes and R&D know-how, hence their profits and livelihood. Such action is a sign of a primeval national cultures short-sightedness. The culprit – in this case USA - seems blind to the reel long term cost to itself of such action.

    America’s systematic surveillance and spying on NATO partners top politicians and R&D industries, turns the US into enemy of the victim nations; i.e. otherwise claimed NATO partner and friends.

    The "pursuit of (nonmilitary) US interest" through spying on friendly governments apparently has an extent that clearly has grim negative consequences on these countries international policy aims as well as global economic standing. It covers a wide area of issues causing the non-US western civilization a massive head arc of challenges. E.g. the US undermined change in global environmental policy by eavesdropping on allies’ tactical positions and plans during meetings on combating global climate change (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/30/snowden-nsa-spying-copenhagen-climate-talks), thereby sabotaging the policy aims of its friends through spying on them. The problem extends into everything from practices on corrupting or even "buying" weak states; manipulating bilateral and global trade agreements; turning most Arab nations into a bunch impoverished fanatics that for good reason now hate western civilization.

    US straight forward spying on and theft of allies cooperate research, development and innovation data; just to help US business at the expense of friendly nations (http://www.bbc.com/news/25907502), is chokingly insulting.

    In sum, the most significant long term threat to the world and the enemy of Europe, Japan etc. (i.e. western civilization) comes from the US, not China, Russia etc. Hence, we the non-US must change our targets enemy from Russians and Arabs to America; and our favored weapons from military to computer science.