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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid