The revelations about the NSA's surveillance operations just keep coming. The Guardian has yet another piece revealing that the government spent a decade collecting bulk email data, in much the same way it collected bulk cellphone data. As with the cellphone data, the government collected metadata, meaning information on the time the email was sent, the sender and recipient, and possibly their respective locations, but not the emails' contents. Obama administration communications director Shawn Turner confirmed the program's existence.
The project was authorized shortly after the 9/11 attacks, with the FISA court renewing an order approving it every 90 days. Turner says it was discontinued in 2011 "for operational and resource reasons." While at first it was limited to communications in which at least one participant was outside the US, and in which neither was believed to be a US citizen, in 2007 a secret Justice Department memo expanded the program to include "United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States as well." The Guardian article does not mention globetrotting leaker Edward Snowden as its source, but it is written by Snowden's confidant, Glenn Greenwald.