Snowden docs reveal NSA’s ‘voyeuristic’ spying on millions of average internet users

posted at 3:31 pm on July 6, 2014 by Noah Rothman

According to documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden and a “10 month investigation by The Washington Post,” ordinary American and non-American internet users were more often the targets of National Security Agency communications netting operations than were the legitimate targets of investigations.

“Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else,” The Post reported.

They add, however, that the NSA targeting operations have resulted in the capture of key figures in the War on Terror, including Pakistani bomb builder Muhammad Tahir Shahzad and Umar Patek, a suspect in the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

The Post alleges that their investigation revealed aspects of ongoing NSA operations which they refused to describe in detail. Among the operations Post investigators were privy to include “a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.”

“If Snowden’s sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested,” The Post report concluded. “At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.”


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Figured as much…

OmahaConservative on July 6, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Hoovers’ FBI were pikers compared to this.

percysunshine on July 6, 2014 at 3:37 PM

The NSA also had all of Lois Lerner’s emails, but lost them when a single outdated IDE hard drive crashed.

The Rogue Tomato on July 6, 2014 at 3:37 PM

You still think Snowden is a traitor, folks? Keep banging that chicken. Just don’t call yourselves “freedom lovers”, okay?

Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

You still think Snowden is a traitor, folks? Keep banging that chicken. Just don’t call yourselves “freedom lovers”, okay?

Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Deal. He’s a traitor.

Stoic Patriot on July 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

The NSA also had all of Lois Lerner’s emails, but lost them when a single outdated IDE hard drive crashed.

The Rogue Tomato on July 6, 2014 at 3:37 PM

You know they have them. That’s what makes this whole “lost” thing so ridiculous. They must be some doozies.

VegasRick on July 6, 2014 at 3:48 PM

You still think Snowden is a traitor, folks? Keep banging that chicken. Just don’t call yourselves “freedom lovers”, okay?
Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Deal. He’s a traitor.
Stoic Patriot on July 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Cool. Please be careful with that chicken. You’re not the only TruCon troll here. :)

Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks

Sounds exciting, is this in theaters yet?

RINO in Name Only on July 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Any pictures of the Germans? They are a big fan of this surveillance. Brings back thoughts of the good old Stasi days. Unfortunately, have you noticed that Germany is moving towards the Russian orbit lately? Germany just outlawed fracking at the behest of the Russians. Putin has been taking hand after hand in this great game. Where is Snowden perched?

“74% of Germans oppose permanent NATO bases in Poland”
“NATO will not offer Georgia membership step, avoiding Russia clash”

as for sanctions:

“Why is Europe holding back? The continent’s dependence on Russian gas is one reason. But just as important are the tens of billions of dollars in assets that Russian companies have placed in European tax havens. Wealthy Russians have invested billions more in real estate in Britain, the French Riviera, Switzerland, and elsewhere. “If Europe wants to have some impact on Putin, it will have to experience some pain itself,” Lain says. For now, that seems unlikely.”

finally

“U.S. Exports To Russia Rise Despite Tensions, Minor Sanctions”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2014/07/04/u-s-exports-to-russia-rise-despite-tensions-minor-sanctions/

Viator on July 6, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Its almost as if power and no accountability leads to corruption.

ChrisL on July 6, 2014 at 4:20 PM

You still think Snowden is a traitor, folks? Keep banging that chicken. Just don’t call yourselves “freedom lovers”, okay?

Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Yep, he needs to be publicly hanged.

The Notorious G.O.P on July 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

If he was angered by what the NSA was doing why aren’t we seeing what the were collecting internally, like what the EPA, IRS or others were doing domestically, he sounds like a run of the mill spy to me, shoot him.

whbates on July 6, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Absolute power corrupts absolutely…Lord Acton 1st.

Bakokitty on July 6, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Sick fascist peeping tom perverts – probably trying to make up for some of their sexual inadequacy and impotence.

VorDaj on July 6, 2014 at 4:39 PM

And people don’t give a crap. That is the America we live in today. People know that they are under constant surveillance by their government but they love pretending that it’s a good thing.

coolrepublica on July 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Yep, he needs to be publicly hanged.

The Notorious G.O.P on July 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

That’s what Herr Obama would like his servants to do.

VorDaj on July 6, 2014 at 4:41 PM

And people don’t give a crap. That is the America we live in today. People know that they are under constant surveillance by their government but they love pretending that it’s a good thing.

coolrepublica on July 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM

From the land of the free and the home of the brave to the land of the sheeple and the home of the mice … and all in only about two generations.

VorDaj on July 6, 2014 at 4:43 PM

kj, change your passwords.

DarkCurrent on July 6, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Truth is treason in the empire of lies.

VorDaj on July 6, 2014 at 4:46 PM

In a state of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – Orwell

VorDaj on July 6, 2014 at 4:48 PM

So nice of the Post to stooge for the Russian.

They’ll probably get a Pullet Surprise for this.

unclesmrgol on July 6, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Here’s the link Rothman failed to provide:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-nsa-intercepted-data-those-not-targeted-far-outnumber-the-foreigners-who-are/2014/07/05/8139adf8-045a-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.html

The meat of the story is at the end, and if this woman is the worst the Post can find, it’s all in the “not-a-story” bin:

‘I don’t like people knowing’

She was 29 and shattered by divorce, converting to Islam in search of comfort and love. He was three years younger, rugged and restless. His parents had fled Kabul and raised him in Australia, but he dreamed of returning to Afghanistan.

One day when she was sick in bed, he brought her tea. Their faith forbade what happened next, and later she recalled it with shame.

“what we did was evil and cursed and may allah swt MOST merciful forgive us for giving in to our nafs [desires]”

Still, a romance grew. They fought. They spoke of marriage. They fought again.

All of this was in the files because, around the same time, he went looking for the Taliban.

He found an e-mail address on its English-language Web site and wrote repeatedly, professing loyalty to the one true faith, offering to “come help my brothers” and join the fight against the unbelievers.

On May 30, 2012, without a word to her, he boarded a plane to begin a journey to Kandahar. He left word that he would not see her again.

If that had been the end of it, there would not be more than 800 pages of anguished correspondence between them in the archives of the NSA and its counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate.

He had made himself a target. She was the collateral damage, placed under a microscope as she tried to adjust to the loss.

Three weeks after he landed in Kandahar, she found him on Facebook.

“Im putting all my pride aside just to say that i will miss you dearly and your the only person that i really allowed myself to get close to after losing my ex husband, my dad and my brother.. Im glad it was so easy for you to move on and put what we had aside and for me well Im just soo happy i met you. You will always remain in my heart. I know you left for a purpose it hurts like hell sometimes not because Im needy but because i wish i could have been with you.”

His replies were cool, then insulting, and gradually became demanding. He would marry her but there were conditions. She must submit to his will, move in with his parents and wait for him in Australia. She must hand him control of her Facebook account — he did not approve of the photos posted there.

She refused. He insisted:

“look in islam husband doesnt touch girl financial earnigs unless she agrees but as far as privacy goes there is no room….i need to have all ur details everything u do its what im supposed to know that will guide u whether its right or wrong got it”

Later, she came to understand the irony of her reply:

“I don’t like people knowing my private life.”

unclesmrgol on July 6, 2014 at 4:59 PM

And this all happens on the Choom Gang’s watch.

So it’s surprising the WaPo even wrote this story.

You still think Snowden is a traitor, folks? Keep banging that chicken. Just don’t call yourselves “freedom lovers”, okay?

Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Traitor whose acts point to abuse by other parts of government.

They aren’t mutually exclusive, sweetie.

From the land of the free and the home of the brave to the land of the sheeple and the home of the mice … and all in only about two generations.

VorDaj on July 6, 2014 at 4:43 PM

Was it ever thus.

Only about 1/3 of the public – at best – supported the American Revolution.

But it does seem people are waking up.

Gloom and doomsters notwithstanding

formwiz on July 6, 2014 at 5:01 PM

This is why hoovering up and analyzing and collating vast amounts of data will inevitably lead to egregious violations of the privacy rights of Americans by the hundreds of thousands.

Esaus Message on July 6, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Yes, he’s a traitor but the most enlightening one ever.

Until these documents were released, everyone in government (and most in the media) denied anything like this had ever occurred or was occurring still.

Now, they are all exposed as untrustworthy sociopath liars.

Tard on July 6, 2014 at 5:20 PM

and I’ve been called a tinfoiler since the 90′s when I said nsa doing whatever they can to read all electronic communications.
the only thing snowden told me was actual program names, anyone else that was curious also probably knew they were doing this.

dmacleo on July 6, 2014 at 6:00 PM

And people don’t give a crap. That is the America we live in today. People know that they are under constant surveillance by their government but they love pretending that it’s a good thing.

coolrepublica on July 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM

probably one of the few times we’ll agree on something, you are correct here.

dmacleo on July 6, 2014 at 6:02 PM

Violation of the 4th Amendment. All domestic surveillance MUST STOP.

John the Libertarian on July 6, 2014 at 6:10 PM

NSA’s ‘voyeuristic’ spying

Sometimes it’s really nice to be really boring.

“OH LOOK MAN – Marcola is browsing the Kroger weekly ad again! WOOT!”

I hope ‘they’ fall asleep at their desks and bang their heads on their keyboards.

Marcola on July 6, 2014 at 6:13 PM

…get naked!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 6, 2014 at 6:59 PM

The Post report concluded. “At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.”

It’s worse than that.

Interview With Former NSA Boss Bill Binney

Some excepts:

Q “As far as you know, nothing in the Snowdon revelations is incorrect or exaggerated.”

A “Uh, no. I mean, because it’s all the documentation of the government. It’s their documentation. That’s the best evidence.”

“My understanding is that he [Snowdon] turned all of the data over to reporters in Hong Kong. He had none of it with him” when he got to Russia.

If Snowdon came back to the US “He wouldn’t get a fair trial…. any exculpatory evidence they would just claim state secrets, which is what they did with Tom Drake.”

“They’re spying on everybody in the US, that’s why I left.”

“It’s all content, not just metadata.”

“All your Internet activity… whatever you do on the Internet.”

“Transcription [mechanical] of 3 billion phone calls a day.”

“Without a warrant… full transcription.”

Akzed on July 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM

So are we still pretending they didn’t use this to spy on the Romney 2012 campaign, its donors, and operatives?

This is sickening, and there isn’t a damn thing anyone is going to do about it. The teflon SCOAMF has nothing to worry about, his useful idiots will explain and apologize this away.

Hell of a country we have now….

LiB

wytshus on July 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Deal. He’s a traitor. Stoic Patriot on July 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

“My understanding is that he [Snowdon] turned all of the data over to reporters in Hong Kong. He had none of it with him” when he got to Russia.

Akzed on July 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Are you saying you’re better informed than Bill Binney?

Akzed on July 6, 2014 at 7:01 PM

And people don’t give a crap. That is the America we live in today. People know that they are under constant surveillance by their government but they love pretending that it’s a good thing.

coolrepublica on July 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM

I am all for it. Let the sheeple flood the system with their insipid discussions about trivial nonsense. Overwhelm them with amateur pr0n, tales of intrigue, sex and betrayal. Bore them with bad jokes, complaints about work and traffic, the kids, the spouses. Spam them with kitten pictures, home crafts, internet memes and local and celebrity gossip.

In that noise, others are monkey wrenching the system by putting false data out there. Don’t let them trust the data.

And deep, deep inside all of that noise is a signal that won’t be picked up at all.

Reuben Hick on July 6, 2014 at 7:07 PM

If Snowden’s a traitor, what is the NSA?

(Reuters) – A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
~

Note my link above – Bill Binney quit his high level position at NSA because he knew what was going on. Is he a traitor?

Had we lost the Revolution, George Washington would be known today as a traitor, and Benedict Arnold would be touted as a hero.

Akzed on July 6, 2014 at 7:08 PM

Viator on July 6, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Maybe Germany -not to mention Austria- just wants its gold back.

Where do you think it is?

Akzed on July 6, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Yep, he needs to be publicly hanged. The Notorious G.O.P on July 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

What a hardass.

Funny how your instinct is to call for his head instead of the NSA employees that are responsible for recording and mechanically transcribing 3 billion phone conversations a day.

“They’re spying on everybody in the US, that’s why I left.”

“It’s all content, not just metadata.”

“All your Internet activity… whatever you do on the Internet.”

“Transcription [mechanical] of 3 billion phone calls a day.”

“Without a warrant… full transcription.” -Bill Binney

Akzed on July 6, 2014 at 7:16 PM

I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.

J.B. Say on July 6, 2014 at 7:27 PM

That means they are watching me be on hotair :)

sorrowen on July 6, 2014 at 7:47 PM

Deal. He’s a traitor.

Stoic Patriot on July 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Agree.

rlwo2008 on July 6, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Somewhere is a record that I farted while mowing the lawn today.

Tard on July 6, 2014 at 11:31 PM

It’s pretty obvious from reading this thread who the John McCain and Lindsey Graham voters are

Brock Robamney on July 7, 2014 at 6:21 AM

It’s not just the NSA. Countless thousands of government employees with the power and authority to snoop into your privacy and with essentially nothing else to do, do so with lecherous gusto. And when not spying on internet users, they type, in Google, “MIKA TAN” and then click “SEARCH”.

MaiDee on July 7, 2014 at 9:38 AM

You still think Snowden is a traitor, folks? Keep banging that chicken. Just don’t call yourselves “freedom lovers”, okay?

Rix on July 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Deal. He’s a traitor.

Stoic Patriot on July 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

It is brain dead morons like stoic that have cost us our freedom and turned this country into the fascist controlled surveillance police state it has become.

earlgrey on July 7, 2014 at 11:53 AM