The NSA stores the online metadata of millions of Internet users for up to a year, whether they are targets of investigations or not, The Guardian reports Monday that top secret documents reveal.
Metadata is the record of almost everything a person does online, from browsing history to email account activity and details, as well as some passwords. It can be used to build a detailed picture of a person’s life both off- and online.
Obama and his officials have repeatedly said that the NSA keeps the contents and communications of only people it intentionally targets. These internal documents demonstrate otherwise.
An introductory guide to digital network intelligence for NSA field agents, included in documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes the agency’s metadata repository, codenamed Marina. Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system.
“The Marina metadata application tracks a user’s browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target,” the analysts’ guide explains. “This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development.”
The guide goes on to explain Marina’s unique capability: “Of the more distinguishing features, Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days’ worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection.”