Although NSA officials were not sure about what all documents Edward Snowden took with him, they've changed their tune a few times after some new leak proves their previous proclamations to be false...like when former NSA Chief Keith Alexander admitted to lying about phone surveillance stopping 54 terror plots. Despite a year of NSA officials claiming that Edward Snowden had access to reports about NSA surveillance, but no access to actual surveillance intercepts, that ends up being lie too.
Snowden gave the Washington Post a sampling of actual intercepted communications; after months of reviewing about 160,000 intercepted emails and instant messages and 7,900 documents taken from over 11,000 online accounts, the Post said nine out of 10 account holders in the large cache of intercepted communications were not even surveillance targets. In fact, the collateral damage is astounding. The Post reported:
Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or "minimized," more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans' privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S. residents.
The intercepted communications were collected from 2009 to 2012, during President Obama's first term; under the President, formerly a "constitutional law professor," the Post noted that the NSA's domestic collection program underwent a "period of exponential growth." Interestingly, a research paper released last week explained how the government can exploit legal and technical loopholes in order to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans. One way is through Executive Order 12333, which would allow Americans' communications to be sucked up when their network traffic is routed overseas or their data is stored abroad.
So what might put Americans in the NSA's collection crosshairs? People on the chat "buddy list" of a foreign national are considered foreigners as well as people who write emails in a foreign language. Then there's the use of a proxy, which might be an IP address from a different country.
If a target entered an online chat room, the NSA collected the words and identities of every person who posted there, regardless of subject, as well as every person who simply 'lurked,' reading passively what other people wrote.
One analyst reported wrote, "1 target, 38 others on there," but she collected data on them all. Others made notes that the surveillance was not relevant, yet the NSA sometimes designates as "its target the Internet protocol, or IP, address of a computer server used by hundreds of people."
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