As the intelligence agency transitions to a new system of collecting data without compromising security, in an investigation published Wednesday, The Intercept explains in great details the NSA XKeyscore spying program.
The latest published report drawn from documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, confirm the swelling accusations that the National Security Agency (NSA) can reach into the web and find any kind of communication, be it emails, photographs or documents.
The Intercept publishing 48 top-secret and other classified documents about XKeyscore dated up to 2013. It was one of the largest releases yet of documents provided by former NSA contractor Snowden.
The Guardian was the first to unveil this covert program in 2013, which involves “a searchable database for intelligence analysts to scan intercepted data.”
Now, emerging details indicate how far-reaching and intrusive the system is.
A few highlights from the report
– Analysts can query NSA XKeyscore database for information on people based on location, nationality, and previous web traffic. As of 2008, the surveillance system had hundreds of field sites spread across the globe.
– Social media sites are becoming key sources of surveillance data.
– With XKeyscore, tracking people is as easy as Googling their name.
– XKeyscore is also used for counterintelligence operations.
– NSA stated that its surveillance system is absolutely necessary to fight against terrorism and protect American citizens.
– XKEYSCORE has been used to spy on Shaykh Atiyatallah, an al Qaeda senior leader and Osama bin Laden confidant. Non-terrorist targets such as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, however, have also been followed.
– NSA partners such as Canada, New Zealand and the U.K., have access to the XKeyscore’s database.
NSA around the world
If the reports released by The Intercept weren’t enough, a new batch of documents published by Wikileaks on Wednesday shows NSA espionage extending to Germany as well as other European key institutions on ‘hot’ issues such as the handling of the Greek debt crisis.
According to a Pew survey published in May, since Snowden leaked details of the NSA two years ago and the documentary Citizenfour was released, a majority of Americans is against the government collecting bulk of data on its citizens and believes that the limits on the types of data collected are not adequate. Most, however, support monitoring the communications activity of suspected terrorists.
The NSA’s program that allowed the agency to collect Americans’ phone records lapsed earlier this month as sections of the Patriot Act briefly expired.
A subsequently passed law, the USA Freedom Act, however, allows the bulk collection to continue, but only for the next six months – a short timeframe to help the intelligence agency transition to a new system of collecting data without compromising security.
Read more about the USA Freedom Act here.