For more than two years, the Obama administration allowed the National Security Agency to continue collecting huge amounts of data detailing Internet and email use by individual Americans, secret documents obtained by The Guardian reveal.

It can be difficult to keep all the disclosures coming out about government spying straight. These documents show that under a program launched in 2001 named Stellar Wind, a federal judge “sitting on a secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court” approved orders to collect Internet metadata in bulk every 90 days.

Metadata is information relevant to a phone call or email, such as the date of the communication, the names, phone numbers and IP addresses of senders and recipients, the duration of a call, and possibly the locations of the parties involved.

A senior Obama administration official confirmed the program. Collection of these records began under the Bush administration’s broad and unlawful warrantless surveillance program.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian:

According to a top-secret draft report by the NSA’s inspector general – published for the first time today by the Guardian – the agency began “collection of bulk internet metadata” involving “communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States”.

Eventually, the NSA gained authority to “analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States”, according to a 2007 Justice Department memo, which is marked secret.

… The internet metadata of the sort NSA collected for at least a decade details the accounts to which Americans sent emails and from which they received emails. It also details the internet protocol addresses (IP) used by people inside the United States when sending emails – information which can reflect their physical location. It did not include the content of emails.

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