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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NSA controversy just expanded dramatically

The Guardian - XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'
Glenn Greenwald: A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.

The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".
Greenwald reports that XKeyscore’s capabilities were denied by congressional leaders; “US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: ‘He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.’"

It would seem that either Rogers himself was lying or that the full extent of the NSA’s snooping was kept even from him.

The system is ripe for abuse. “Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets," according to the report. “But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst."

In other words, it’s illegal to use XKeyscore to snoop on your ex-wife, but there are no other safeguards to guarantee it won’t be abused. The program creates a database that allows you to “search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used." So pretty much any sliver of information will bring you a pile of data.The potential for blackmailers or stalkers is tremendous and, as I’ve pointed out before, even if you trust this president completely with all this info, he’s not the only one who has access. After all, Eric Snowden himself was just some low-level guy and look what he had access to. Human nature is such that you can’t trust everyone. Someone will abuse this system, if they haven’t already.

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