The National Security Agency is able to spy on a shocking 75% of US Internet traffic through agreements with telecommunications carriers, far more than has previously been disclosed, the Wall Street Journal finds in interviews with current and former officials. The agency, which is able to read the content of emails as well as metadata including "to" and "from" lines, filters emails and gathers information at a dozen major Internet junctions in the US, using programs with code-names like Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium, and Stormbrew.
The agency is not "wallowing willy-nilly" through people's emails, but uses complex algorithms to gather information, one official says. "We want high-grade ore." Insiders say the telecommunications firms have different relationships with the NSA, with at least one willing to provide only "clearly foreign" streams of traffic. The intercept systems were expanded after 9/11, and one was used to monitor all email and text communications in the Salt Lake City area for six months before the 2002 Winter Olympics. "If you were looking for a cut-and-dried example of the NSA abusing its rights and absolving the right to privacy and the Fourth Amendment in practice, there you go," writes Alex Wilhelm at TechCrunch. In other NSA news, intelligence sources tell NBC that the agency is still "overwhelmed" trying to assess the damage done by Edward Snowden's leaks and still isn't sure exactly how much data he took. (Read more National Security Agency stories.)