News / USA

Ordinary Americans Outnumber Foreigners in NSA Spy Sweep

FILE - An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
FILE - An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
VOA News

A report in a major U.S. newspaper said when the National Security Agency intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period, the agency also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary Internet users, both Americans and non-Americans.

The Washington Post, in a story posted on its website late Saturday, said nearly half of the surveillance files contained names, e-mail addresses or other details the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents.

"Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else," the Post said of its four-month study of the NSA-intercepted electronic data.

Asylum in Russia

Snowden, 30, who fled the United States, was granted temporary asylum by Russia last August after shaking the U.S. intelligence establishment with a series of devastating leaks on mass surveillance in the United States and around the world.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court, the Post reported.

“Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, according to the newspaper. In the case of the material Snowden provided, those in an online chat room visited by a target or merely reading the discussion were included in the data sweep, as were hundreds of people using a computer server whose Internet protocol was targeted.

The newspaper said there were "discoveries of considerable intelligence value" in the intercepted messages, including revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by "an ostensible ally," an unfriendly power's military calamity, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.

The Post says the files show that months of tracking communications across more than 50 alias accounts "led directly" to the 2011 capture in Abbotabad of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, as well as Umar Patek, a suspect in a 2002 bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali, it said.

However, The Washington Post reports many of the other files described as useless by NSA analysts were retained. 

'Voyeristic quality'

The newspaper said those files have a "startling intimate, even voyeuristic quality," telling stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes.  

The Post said the daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are, nevertheless, catalogued and recorded.

The paper said it reviewed about 160,000 emails and instant-message conversations and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts, collected between 2009 and 2012.

The cache Snowden provided to the newspaper came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to the Post.

U.S. intelligence officials declined to confirm or deny in general terms the authenticity of the intercepted content provided by Snowden to the Post.

Last week the Post reported that all but four countries - Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- were seen as valid spy targets for the NSA.

Germany's parliament is investigating the extent of spying by the NSA and its partners on German citizens and politicians, and whether German intelligence aided its activities.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: HMAN from: N J
July 07, 2014 1:15 PM
This is crazy working with local police so the NSA can pull data off your phones diving down you street, the TSA making us turn on our phones at the airports, reading our email except for Lois Learners, Looking at all our searches on the internet. Building a gigantic facility in Utah for recreation. The Soviet Union would still be in power if they had all this technology.


by: Not Again from: Canada
July 06, 2014 2:06 PM
Very interesting operation, of incredible capabilities. From it one can deduce that using the internet, is like using a highway, if the security forces install a camera to catch drunken drivers, speeders, robbers, kidnappers, drug runners,, other criminals.... any one else using the highway gets his/her car's picture taken = no privacy. Do the benefits outweigh the displeasures/downsides ? ABSOLUTELY!
At the end of the day everyone is safer/more secure if the drunken drivers, speeders, robbers, kidnappers, drug runners... etc are taken off the road. It is clear from the article that, just like on a road, there is not much privacy on the internet, but I rather be alive, protected from the criminals, and should not be embarrassed by having the picture/info collected.
A good point is made, that what is the purpose of voyerism?, files/info that contain no security/safety related info, need to be dumped/destroyed; --- BECAUSE- sooner or later the gvmt, which is no better than the pivate sector in safeguarding the info from been stolen, as this crminal Snowden has amply demonstrated, the info could fall in criminal hands.
The problem surely must be cost; collecting is easy, but analyzing and dumping useless info, is very resource intensive; dumping/complete erasing, should be done as resources are made available.
Much like air security, I rather be delayed/ embarrased by the patting/inspections/questioning... and arive alive at my destination, than have criminals board the same flight.
But now that the system has been fully expossed, I am not sure how usefull will it be? Saddly massive resources have been spent on developing/fielding the system(s) and now it may all be down the drain.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid