According to a new story based on documents obtained by former government contractor turned NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden there are vastly more innocent victims of mass surveillance than acknowledged. The story broken by The Washington Post and written by Pulitzer Prize winner Barton Gellman along with Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani reports that 90 percent of of those whose data was collected - at least according to this sample being analyzed- were not legitimate targets of the spying but rather they were innocent internet users both domestically and abroad. The sample is described as "roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts" which shows that the numbers of the ballyhooed just released PCLOB "independent" executive branch report are total bullshit.
The is entitled "In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are" states that:
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.
Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.
The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.
Not that this is news, despite the ongoing denials from the government and from President Barack Obama himself only chumps and suckers would take anything that these people say at face value given the level of systemic corruption and their history of fibbing but when such a story does run - especially within the state-corporate media it is evidence that the powers that be (TPTB) even can see the slow awakening to their arrogance, incompetence and criminality.
The WAPO story goes on to provide multiple examples of those who are caught up in the dragnet collection and states that the extra data not target related as:
Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.
And in one section describes the information collected as:
… medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.
Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.
Despite the ongoing denials and obstruction tactic of continuing to insist that the NSA is only collecting "metadata" the WAPO story makes it evident that content is not only being collected but stored. Where the story doesn't go, and perhaps the drip, drip, drip nature of these revelations may eventually lead (especially if there is indeed a second NSA leaker as has been speculated) is that the additional information can be used for blackmail, intimidation and turning innocent people into government informants - specifically note the reference to pictures of "infants and toddlers in bathtubs" which could be interpreted as being child pornography. Not that I would expect the WAPO to go there and while having a good share of new information it just seems to be more than a bit of a limited hangout in that it doesn't have the real stuff - maybe Glenn Greenwald still will be able to unleash some journalistic shock and awe but after just caving in to to the US government skeptics will always wonder whether that too will be a limited hangout.
There are though other aspects to the Post story that are of particular interest including:
In order to allow time for analysis and outside reporting, neither Snowden nor The Post has disclosed until now that he obtained and shared the content of intercepted communications. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year, senior government officials have depicted it as beyond Snowden’s reach.
Which shows that former NSA Stasi Commandant General Keith Alexander who is now whoring himself out to Wall Street is as much a liar as DNI James Clapper. Gellman and his fellow reporters go on to point this out:
As recently as May, shortly after he retired as NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander denied that Snowden could have passed FISA content to journalists.
“He didn’t get this data,” Alexander told a New Yorker reporter. “They didn’t touch —”
“The operational data?” the reporter asked.
“They didn’t touch the FISA data,” Alexander replied. He added, “That database, he didn’t have access to.”
It would seem that the information contradicts the good retired general who is either an idiot or full of shit and likely a bit of both. It sure didn't take the man who was at one time the most powerful man in the government if not the world for the sheer reach of his ability to gather information. Information that he is apparently now cashing in on like so many other former high officials who travel through that revolving door from supposed government service to the private sector. Considering that nearly all of this creepy and Orwellian surveillance, data-mining and sick voyeurism as well as the circumventing of the Constitution occurred on his watch if there is ever accountability then he should be the first in line for a life in a prison cell for his crimes against the American people.