The NSA Will Know You Read This


On Wednesday, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald released more information provided by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in June about the agency’s ability to spy on electronic communications. The latest installment revealed an NSA project called XKeyscore that, with a few keystrokes, can give a data analyst access to nearly everything a user does on the Internet.

An NSA training slide.

Snowden had previously alluded to the NSA’s ability to sift through virtually all Internet activity, but officials denied that the technology to do so existed.

From Greenwald’s piece:

“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”.

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.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.

The XKeyscore system is reportedly available to NSA analysts and can be accessed without a warrant. According to training manuals produced in 2010, the system requires analysts to request data on certain individuals.

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Here are some of the ways the NSA can spy on you using XKeyscore, according to Greenwald’s story:

  • It can be used along with other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s Internet activity.
  • It allows analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other Internet activity, such as browser history.
  • Allows NSA officials to access a target’s “searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents,” including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites” by simply the entering individual’s email address into a simple online search form.
  • It gives analysts the ability to read the content of Facebook chats or other private messages.
  • Analysts can find out which search terms an Internet user entered and the websites the user viewed.

While Greenwald notes that the NSA collects so much communication data that it can store the information for only about three to five days, he points out that the NSA put into place a system to store “interesting” content in other databases for up to five years.

So the NSA knows you read this post, they will know whom you send it to and they know which website you viewed before and which one you will view after visiting Personal Liberty Digest™. Welcome to 1984.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.