There is new concern about how the U.S. National Security Agency (News - Alert) (NSA) has been doing its job – after it was revealed that data from possibly millions of people were stored for up to a year in a repository.
The Guardian reported that the data were kept in a secret location which is known by insiders as Marina. Some of the data did not come from people of interest, but what the news media is suggesting are ordinary citizens.
Spy agencies never have to justify why they are keeping the information on an individual, and do not need a warrant to undertake the surveillance, news reports said.
The information is also being used to build profiles on Internet users. Also, the information came from what is called metadata, which includes account specifics, browsing history, e-mail activity, and passwords, The Guardian explained.
If the report is correct, it conflicts with statements by the U.S. government claiming the NSA “keeps only the content of messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting,” The Guardian added.
The new information comes in part from an analysts’ guide leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden, The Guardian said. He is now in Russia.
"The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target," the analysts' guide stated. "This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development."
“Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection," the guide added.
The Guardian also reported how the NSA gathered metadata from fiber-optic cables used by the Internet, with “taps on undersea cables” and “partnerships with American telecoms companies.”
In response to the latest news, the NSA released a statement. It said in part, that the "NSA's foreign intelligence activities are conducted pursuant to procedures approved by the US attorney general and the secretary of defense, and, where applicable, the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court, to protect the privacy interests of Americans.”
"We know there is a false perception out there that NSA listens to the phone calls and reads the email of everyday Americans, aiming to unlawfully monitor or profile U.S. citizens. It's just not the case,” the statement added. "NSA's activities are directed against foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements from US leaders in order to protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
Recently, The New York Times reported the NSA was collecting metadata to come up with a record of “social connections” as it related to foreign intelligence. Some of that data relates to American citizens, news reports claimed. It examined “Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes,” The Times said.
“Metadata can be very revealing,” Orin S. Kerr, a law school professor, told The Times. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location of the person’s cell phone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”
Edited by Alisen Downey