NSA systems can reach 75 percent of Internet traffic

Domestic communications are regularly intercepted, officials reveal

Published August 21, 2013 1:15PM (EDT)


The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, based on information from former and current intelligence officials, that the NSA's surveillance dragnet has the capability to reach up to 75 percent of all U.S. online traffic. This, despite the fact that U.S. citizens are supposedly protected from warrantless, dragnet surveillance.

The WSJ, citing officials, reports that algorithms designed (and operated by commercial firms) to filter communications for foreign threats to national security regularly capture metadata and actual content of U.S. emails:

The NSA is focused on collecting foreign intelligence, but the streams of data it monitors include both foreign and domestic communications. Inevitably, officials say, some U.S. Internet communications are scanned and intercepted, including both "metadata" about communications, such as the "to" and "from" lines in an email, and the contents of the communications themselves.

Much, but not all, of the data is discarded, meaning some communications between Americans are stored in the NSA's databases, officials say. Some lawmakers and civil libertarians say that, given the volumes of data NSA is examining, privacy protections are insufficient.

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 nlennard@salon.com.

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