Revealed: "Boundless Informant," NSA's powerful datamining tool

From U.S. computer networks alone, the tool collected nearly 3 billion pieces of intelligence in one month

Published June 9, 2013 3:26PM (EDT)


An totalitarian coinage if there ever was one: The tool the NSA uses for data mining is called, "Boundless Informant." Boundless Informant.

In the latest in a series of bombshell scoops, the Guardian revealed Sunday -- based on top-secret documents -- that Boundless Informant, a metadata categorizing tool, "details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks."

The discovery sits at odds with administration claims that too much metadata is collected daily to be processed in a sense that could be called "spying." Boundless Informant illustrates the method and easy by which the government could easily pick out information from within its hoarded metadata. Boundless Informant, as the leaked government document details, the tool shows "How many records (and what type) are collected against a particular country."

Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill noted too that other documents obtained "further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses."

Via The Guardian:

he Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, "What type of coverage do we have on country X" in "near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure"... Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America's closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Boundless Informant Datamining Glenn Greenwald Iran Metadata Nsa Spying Surveillance