NSA's data reach greater than first thought, says report

NSA's data reach greater than first thought, says report

Summary: The secretive agency has built a surveillance system that can reach three-quarters of all U.S. Internet traffic, according to The Wall Street Journal.

(Image: National Security Agency)

The U.S. National Security Agency's surveillance network reaches far further into the lives of ordinary folk than first thought, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Although the agency is not legally allowed to spy on U.S. citizens, thanks to Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, the NSA has a system that can reach roughly 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic in efforts to acquire foreign intelligence.

This comes just days after the NSA said in a memo [PDF] that the agency "touches" 1.6 percent of the Internet.

In some cases, email content sent citizens in the U.S. is retained, and domestic phone call data is filtered by the agency, the report says.

These revelations, if proven true, would be reminiscent of claims made by Mark Klein in 2006, who worked as an AT&T technician in San Francisco. Klein blew the whistle on the NSA's involvement in domestic wiretapping, claiming the agency diverted Internet traffic through a splitter cabinet in a secure room, dubbed "Room 641A," which was to be used only by NSA personnel.

This kind of activity requires the legal complicity under various laws, including the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), to allow the government to tap into the cables of telecoms companies.

Investigative reporting by ZDNet in June detailed how Tier 1 fiber companies were likely ordered under law to allow vast amounts of data belonging to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to be wiretapped.

BLARNEY, which was noted in the first few slides relating to the PRISM system leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, was first established with AT&T, the paper said. The phone giant declined to comment to the Journal.

It's understood FAIRVIEW, OAKSTAR, LITHIUM, and STORMBREW are similar programs set up at different phone exchanges to filter content running through their systems. The NSA said in the aforementioned memo, "While some have tried to characterize the involvement of such providers as separate programs, that is not accurate," hinting that they are the same program but designed for different providers.

In a statement to sister site CNET, the agency said:

NSA's signals intelligence mission is centered on defeating foreign adversaries who aim to harm the country. We defend the United States from such threats while fiercely working to protect the privacy rights of U.S. persons. It's not either/or. It's both."

Topics: Security, Government US

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  • NSA's Reach

    I believe 100% of all communications is being recorded and analyzed. Big Brother believes he is God now. Good news, there is a God. Bad news for NSA, they're not God.
    • unless...

      Bad news for everyone else, NSA don't know they're not God.
  • Bill Goats thinks he's god.

    Looking at the image of NSA, if anyone wants to steal a car that looks like the place to go, and my guess is that they probably wouldn't even notice it, being the NSA.

    The Chinese, Bangladeshis, Zimbabweans, and Tieraa del Fuegans are not interested in US secrets, they no longer have any.
  • Ha

    as I (and others) pointed out yesterday that whole 1.6% was bunk from the start
    now that that has been revealed what other truths are out there

  • The resl meaning

    And now you are finally waking up to the real meaning of "yes We Can"
  • Silk Browser ...

    The reason for my subject line is that when Amazon came out with their new improvements to their Silk Browser for the KF, there was a Congressman or Senator, I forget, who was the head of a committee that was going to investigate this. I took the time to contact them and pointed out that it isn't that browser they need to be worried about. They needed to be thinking about the fact that everyone trusts their ISP, their Cellular carrier, the 'owners of the backbone' that all of our internet and email activities run on. I told them those were they ones they needed to watch out for because they can literally see and touch everything thing we all do. Coincidentally the whole Silk Browser brohaha went away rather quickly after I sent that to the head of that committee. They may say they knew nothing about the depth of this but I am not so sure. And I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am usually the opposite.