(NaturalNews) When news first broke that the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans, I suspected then that, in truth, the spying would amount to much more than we were initially told.
Sometimes it isn't good to be right.
The NSA has now admitted that the agency was spying on three-quarters of all Internet traffic, including emails, text messages and voice calls made by American citizens. All for your own good, of course. It's like the original 13 states never ratified the Bill of Rights.
Per The Wall Street Journal:
The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.
'Only limited authority to spy within the U.S.'
The spying was conducted with the cooperation of telecom companies - Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft, to name a few - and all without informing customers. The filtering programs used by the NSA, including Prism, were designed "to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S.," the paper said.
However, some U.S. officials said that during the effort to collect foreign communications the system's broad application made it much more likely that communications which originated within the United States would be intercepted as well.
The NSA has only limited authority to spy within the United States.
More from WSJ:
The programs, code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, among others, filter and gather information at major telecommunications companies. Blarney, for instance, was established with AT&T Inc., former officials say. AT&T declined to comment.
The filtering occurs at more than a dozen spots along major Internet junctions across the country, say officials. In the past, any filtering of this kind by the NSA was widely believed to take place at points where undersea or other foreign cables actually enter the U.S.
WSJ said that details about the massive and widespread surveillance programs were obtained from a number of interviews with current and former intelligence and other government officials, as well as people who work for companies that either build or operate the systems or provide data. Most said they had direct knowledge of the surveillance.
Of course, the NSA has defended its practice as legal and respectful of Americans' privacy - an ironic statement that is as inaccurate as it is laughable. Spokeswoman Vanee Vines told WSJ that if American communications are "incidentally collected during NSA's lawful signals intelligence activities," the agency follows "minimization procedures that are approved by the U.S. attorney general and designed to protect the privacy of United States persons."
Sure it does. And the Constitution, too, I suppose.
Another U.S. official downplayed the spying, saying the agency does not wallow "willy-nilly" through Americans' idle online chatter.
"We want high-grade ore," said the official.
NSA intercepting everything, keeping lots of data
But that explanation doesn't address the fact that the NSA's surveillance and data-mining programs do indeed collect "willy-nilly" Americans' private communications data:
To achieve that, the programs use complex algorithms that, in effect, operate like filters placed over a stream with holes designed to let certain pieces of information flow through. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, NSA widened the holes to capture more information when the government broadened its definition of what constitutes "reasonable" collection, according to a former top intelligence official.
According to officials and documents that have been released by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has the ability to acquire phone records of Americans as well as data stored by Internet companies, making the agency capable of tracking nearly everything that happens online.
NSA is also required to destroy data not related to any national security threat, but, officials note, much of what NSA intercepts on innocent Americans is ultimately kept in massive databases.
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