NSA Surveillance Covers 75 Percent of Internet Traffic, WSJ Reports

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
08/22/2013
       
NSA Surveillance Covers 75 Percent of Internet Traffic, WSJ Reports

On Wednesday, August 21, the Wall Street Journal reported on the breadth and depth of the NSA's surveillance of Americans' electronic communications.

When does 1.6 percent equal 75 percent? When the math is being done by the National Security Agency (NSA).

On Wednesday, August 21, citing information provided by unnamed “current and former officials,” the Wall Street Journal reported on a slate of NSA surveillance operations that are broader and more invasive than previously admitted by the federal intelligence community.

“The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% 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,” write Siobhan Gorman and Jennifer Valentino-Devries for the Wall Street Journal.

How does the NSA conduct such wide-reaching monitoring? With the help of the country’s telecommunication companies, which give the agency direct access to the lines of communication. Again, from the Wall Street Journal article:

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.

This filtering takes place at more than a dozen locations at major Internet junctions in the U.S., officials say. Previously, any NSA filtering of this kind was largely believed to be happening near points where undersea or other foreign cables enter the country.

The New American reported recently on the NSA’s tapping of the undersea cables that conduct data internationally.

Writing for the Atlantic, Olga Khazan reported:

In addition to gaining access to web companies' servers and asking for phone metadata, we've now learned that both the U.S. and the U.K. spy agencies are tapping directly into the Internet's backbone — the undersea fiber optic cables that shuttle online communications between countries and servers. For some privacy activists, this process is even more worrisome than monitoring call metadata because it allows governments to make copies of everything that transverses these cables, if they wanted to.

The amount of data being grabbed by British and American snoops is astounding. 

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