In addition to telephone data, the National Security Agency has access to the user data of 9 internet companies.
The Washington Post and the Guardian obtained top secret documents relating to an NSA program called PRISM, which they say allows the NSA direct access to user data of 9 internet giants: Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple, YouTube, Yahoo, Aol, Microsoft and Paltalk. The NSA and internet companies dispute the claim of direct access.
"I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity." Edward Snowden
PRISM was established in 2007 under the Bush administration and extended under Obama. It allegedly has access to both live communications and stored data of users outside the U.S., or users within the U.S. communicating with others outside of the country. It operates within the confines of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.)
Several technology companies implicated in the PRISM scandal have asked the U.S. government to allow them to reveal the number and nature of requests made by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Yahoo on July 15 won a motion that may permit the publication of details of a 2008 lawsuit brought against the U.S. government over its request for user data.
The NSA's surveillance programs may cost U.S.-based cloud computing companies up to $35 billion over the next three years, a Washington, D.C. think tank warned in August 2013.
"It's dozens of terrorist events that these [surveillance operations] have helped prevent. Both here and abroad, in disrupting, or contributing to the disruption of terrorist attacks." Keith Alexander, NSA director
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released nearly 1,000 pages of documents Nov. 18 in response to a lawsuit by privacy advocates. They show that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) continued to authorize government collection of Internet data despite repeated violations of court-mandated limits.
Documents released by Edward Snowden to the Guardian and Der Spiegel showed how U.S. intelligence agencies targeted embassies and diplomatic missions in Washington and New York belonging to 38 different nations, including those of the European Union.
Training slides of an NSA program called XKEYSCORE, leaked by Edward Snowden have been published by the Guardian. The slides show how an NSA analyst is able to intercept the internet traffic, emails and chat logs of a target if their email address is known.
The NSA searches the contents of "vast amounts" of emails and texts sent in or out of the country for mentions of info related to foreigners under surveillance, the New York Times reported Aug. 8. Previously, government officials had acknowledged intercepting only direct communications to foreign surveillance targets.
By cross-referencing phone and email metadata with other information such as "bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, property records and unspecified tax data" the NSA is able to plot the social connections of its targets, including some American citizens, according to revelations in the New York Times.
The NSA and GCHQ have attempted—unsuccessfully—to compromise the integrity of Tor, the online anonymity network, the Guardian reported on Oct. 4.
According to the Intelligence Community's 2013 budget, leaked by Snowden, the CIA receives more funding than any of the other 15 agencies under the Director of National Intelligence — $14.7 billion or 28% of the total budget. It is a figure significantly larger than the $10.8 billion which the NSA receives.
The CIA has been secretly gathering bulk money transfer records around the world using the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the same legal provision the NSA uses to collect Americans' phone records in bulk — according to the New York Times, which cited unnamed current and former government officials.
The ACLU filed a complaint in a New York federal court on June 11 against the government's NSA spying programs. The group asserts the programs violate the 1st and 4th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that protect speech, assembly and from search and seizure.
"We don't have a domestic spying program. [We have] mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack… That information is useful." President Obama
Pres. Obama hasn't visited NSA headquarters at Fort Meade since the first leaks from Edward Snowden surfaced, causing a plunge in morale among employees, former NSA officials tell the Washington Post. NSA workers "are feeling bad, beaten down," an unnamed official said.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper apologized to Congress in a letter released July 3 for providing "clearly erroneous" testimony in March, when he told a Senate committee that the NSA does not collect information on millions of Americans.
The NSA and UK's GCHQ are able to easily foil most Internet encryption, according a two reports published Sep. 5. The reports detail how the NSA has worked to weaken encryption products and standards to make encryption vulnerable for spy agencies to access.
A "memorandum of understanding" between the NSA and Israel's SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) — leaked to the Guardian by Edward Snowden — details how the NSA hands over the raw data of intercepted communications to Israel without it being "minimized" — that is, with information about U.S. persons intact.
Documents provided to the Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden indicate that certain foreign attack operations in Pakistan and possibly elsewhere rely heavily on the NSA's surveillance tactics and cyber attacks, according to an Oct. 16 report.
To discredit the reputations of jihadist groups, the NSA keeps records of their visits to pornographic websites and online sexual activity, according to new leaks from Edward Snowden. A National Intelligence spokesman told the Huffington Post Nov. 26 that such measures "should not be surprising."
Software designed to prevent the type of leaks that Edward Snowden carried out was not installed on the network at the Hawaii facility where he worked, according to Reuters. The software developed by defense contractor Raytheon was designed to spot unauthorized access or downloads of classified data.
The NSA taps into telecommunications hubs around the world in order to collect, store and analyze 5 billion points of cellphone location data per day, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and confirmed by unidentified NSA officials, the Washington Post reported Dec. 4.
AT&T is looking to quell inquiries from shareholders over its role in domestic surveillance, with the company arguing that it must comply with all government requests for data and that compliance is merely a part of day-to-day business operations and therefore not subject to shareholder scrutiny.
The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), have spied on players of several online video games, including "World of Warcraft" and "Second Life," the latest leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden have revealed. The documents, dated 2008, were first described in articles published by the Guardian on Dec. 9.
If you don't have a Circa account yet, download and sign up using the free app for iPhone.