New details on XKeyscore tool shows NSA’s alarming reach

PrivacyIf you weren’t already paranoid enough, new information has been released from the Edward Snowden leaks. This time about a tool called XKeyscore, a program that by the National Security Agency’s own admission gives them access to “nearly everything a user does on the internet”.

Remember when Snowden claimed he could wiretap anyone from his desk, just using a personal email? Then the NSA came out and said that was a total lie and laughable because no one has that kind of far reaching technology at their disposal? Today, we get confirmation about what the whistleblower was referencing.

XKeyscore is basically a data collector that searches through a huge collection of information gathered from computer networks. This process, called Digital Network Intelligence, doesn’t just look at metadata. It also goes through emails, chat logs, online phone conversations, searches and pretty much anything else you could think of.

This process is done both retroactively and in real time, which means at any point someone could literally be listening in on a phone conversation or watching you Google images of cats.

Now, according to reports they can’t do this with “US persons” unless they have an approved warrant. But they can do this with foreign targets, which could include Americans, and that is without any warrant or oversight. The agent just gives a broad justification for why they want to watch them, and then go about their spying business.

Obviously this is an incredibly ambiguous rule, and the process could easily be violated. It is the same kind of threat as being able to name anyone an ‘enemy combatant’. It just seems like double talk to give wide reaching access to anyone the NSA deems a risk.

All of this seems far fetched, which is exactly why its so terrifying. This isn’t some random speculation that could be taken out of context. The NSA’s own training materials discuss the wide reaching capabilities of XKeyscore. They even brag about it, and how it can log “nearly  everything a user does on the internet”…and it is global.

What is the moral of the story here? I really don’t know, I guess that the government (probably all governments, let’s be honest here) are watching whoever they want to. It is definitely a strike against the argument that it would take too much technology and manpower to run a massive surveillance operation. That is clearly something they have been able to do.

Source: The Guardian

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