The NSA is purported to have gathered and stored thousands of communications belonging to American citizens, a stark difference to what the secret court had been led to believe in both scope and nature. Bates had not been aware the extent to which the agency had intervened in civil life.
The document outlining the court’s decision also reveals the NSA’s records of breaching its own surveillance protocol annually, with tens of thousands of Americans’ emails being “gathered” along with foreign intel.
Some argue that these are merely statistically inevitable mistakes and not an abuse of authority. Others call for a discontinuation of the agency altogether, crying Big Brother. The NSA is claiming they’re doing this for national security. So, how well have they performed?
Director General Keith Alexander gave a very telling speech at the Black Hat computer-security conference:
“I promise you the truth — what we know, what we’re doing, and what I cannot tell you because we don’t want to jeopardize our future defense.”
Alexander also revealed two important numbers, validating his agency’s existence. Fifty-four terrorist attacks, according to Alexander, have been prevented worldwide. Thirteen of them were based in the U.S.
The specifics of the thwarted attacks were left unsaid.
Despite its unpopularity, the NSA claims to track only about .00004 percent of all web traffic, an extremely small amount considering the scale of everyday networking. How does an agency that only looks at one part per million of the Internet accidentally store citizens’ information?
“A US person might be courtesy copied on an e-mail to or from a legitimate foreign target, or a person in the US might be in contact with a known terrorist target.”
Considering the questionable cases surrounding Internet arrests, these mistakes could end up costing someone their livelihood.
Americans finding out that a court ruled the NSA’s methods unconstitutional two years later will further sour the relationship between the people and their government.
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