Following on the heels of his blockbuster revelation of the U.S. government’s PRISM program, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald broke another major story about the NSA on Wednesday, this one detailing an Internet surveillance program that allows the powerful agency to spy on the emails, Web chats and search histories of millions of Americans without prior authorization.
According to Greenwald, “The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its ‘widest-reaching’ system for developing intelligence from the internet.”
Greenwald obtained the training guide through whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the former NSA contract worker who claimed last month during an interview that he could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.” At the time, U.S. officials denied the claim. However, the newly released materials appear to support Snowden’s statement.
Glenn Greenwald via The Guardian:
XKeysocre, 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.
Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.
...The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a “selector” in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.
You can read the XKeyscore 2008 presentation here.