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NSA Built a Search Engine to Share 850 Billion Records, The Intercept Reports

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Peter Z. Scheer
Managing Editor
Peter Scheer grew up in the newspaper business, spending family vacations with his mother at newspaper editors' conferences, enjoying daycare in editorial departments and begrudgingly reviewing his father's…
Peter Z. Scheer

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According to newly released documents from Edward Snowden’s archives, the National Security Agency not only gave domestic law enforcement entitites access to private data, it made searching that data as easy as possible.

ICReach is a search engine built by the NSA to share a reported 850 billion records, including emails, location data and Internet chats, with other agencies, such as the FBI.

One slide describes the platform as “Google-like search.”

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice, told The Intercept, “this is a trove of incredibly sensitive information.”

That trove does not reportedly include the phone records of presumably innocent Americans collected under the assumed authority of the Patriot Act, but it does include data on Americans and many, many foreigners.

As The Intercept reports, the program is troubling to legal scholars:

Brian Owsley, a federal magistrate judge between 2005 and 2013, said he was alarmed that traditional law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the DEA were among those with access to the NSA’s surveillance troves.

“This is not something that I think the government should be doing,” said Owsley, an assistant professor of law at Indiana Tech Law School. “Perhaps if information is useful in a specific case, they can get judicial authority to provide it to another agency. But there shouldn’t be this buddy-buddy system back-and-forth.”

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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