July 8, 2014 -
According to a recent report published in the Washington Post, the U.S. intelligence community targets far more ordinary Internet users, both American and foreign, than intended surveillance targets.
In the quest to monitor those deemed a threat to the United States, communications intercepted by the National Security Agency (NSA) contain a tremendous amount of data which is not material to security investigations.
As a result, the Post claims that “many files, described as useless by security analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality.” In its investigation, the Post notes that the data held by the NSA on regular citizens tells “stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes.”
According to the Post, the daily lives of more than 10,000 service provider account holders who were not targeted have been cataloged and recorded, contrary to U.S. law.
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. For collection under surveillance rules devised for PRISM and other mass collection intelligence programs, security analysts must demonstrate a reasonable belief that the target has information of value about a foreign government, a terrorist organization or the spread of non-conventional weapons.
While it has been acknowledged that incidental collection of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, the U.S. government has publicly committed to work to limit and discard irrelevant data. In criminal wiretaps, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is supposed to stop listening to a call if a suspect’s family member is using the phone.
Uncontrolled data collection and storage however continues for signal intercepts, according to this latest information derived from leaks from Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. BiometricUpdate.com reported in April that government spying on U.S. citizens continued unabated, despite previous U.S. denials that it operates illegal Internet surveillance programs.
In associated news, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also recently found to be involved in a spying operation against Germany that led to the alleged recruitment of a German intelligence official as a double agent. Germany’s Federal Prosecutor has issued a statement saying that an employee of the country’s foreign intelligence service, admitted passing to an American intelligence contact details concerning a German parliamentary committee’s investigation of alleged U.S. eavesdropping disclosed by Snowden.
Snowden’s previous revelations included evidence that the NSA was targeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone, which at the time, caused a tremendous amount of damage to U.S.-German relations.