Report: NSA programs cover 75% of web traffic in US
The internet may be the last refuge of true liberty in America, as far as people can say just about anything they wish, but just be mindful that it's probable your surfing habits and web presence is under scrutiny - if only by computers.
The National Security Agency--which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens--has built a surveillance network that covers more Americans' Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say.
The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.
The NSA's filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S. But officials say the system's broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.
The programs, code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, among others, filter and gather information at major telecommunications companies. Blarney, for instance, was established with AT&T Inc., T -0.69% former officials say. AT&T declined to comment.
This filtering takes place at more than a dozen locations at major Internet junctions in the U.S., officials say. Previously, any NSA filtering of this kind was largely believed to be happening near points where undersea or other foreign cables enter the country.
Details of these surveillance programs were gathered from interviews with current and former intelligence and government officials and people from companies that help build or operate the systems, or provide data. Most have direct knowledge of the work.
The NSA defends its practices as legal and respectful of Americans' privacy. According to NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, if American communications are "incidentally collected during NSA's lawful signals intelligence activities," the agency follows "minimization procedures that are approved by the U.S. attorney general and designed to protect the privacy of United States persons."
"Legal and respectful"? What a joke. "Legal" is apparently anything the NSA says is legal. And if they had any respect for our privacy, they wouldn't be monitoring 75% of the internet in the first place.
The more we find out about the true reach of these programs, the more that the initial explanations from the president and intelligence officials are exposed as lies. The question remains; what is Congress going to do about it?
We'll find out when they come back from recess next month.