A lengthy report in the New York Times, based on thousands of documents shared by the Guardian via Edward Snowden, offers an in-depth look at an agency that can "seem omniscient," with eyes everywhere tracking even the smallest matters. The material obtained—whether years of stored text messages, "gigabytes of credit card purchases," or eavesdropped conversations—can be of great value: Scott Shane writes about operations that stopped a terrorist plot against a Swedish illustrator, helped Kennedy International Airport battle Chinese human smugglers, and gave the Colombian Army details of FARC rebel plans.
But plenty of collected data is never looked at, despite the effort to obtain it. And some material seems hardly useful; the paper cites the agency's successful grab at UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon's talking points for a meeting with President Obama. Meanwhile, despite the NSA's incredible reach in Afghanistan, it hasn't offered a path to "clear-cut strategic success" in the country, the Times notes. The paper's investigation, while raising a range of key questions, presents a wealth of details on the NSA's functioning; the agency hopes to "utterly master" foreign intelligence and gives great value to "the moral high ground." Click for the full piece. (Read more NSA stories.)