A four-month long investigation by the Washington Post has found that National Security Agency data mining collects much more from non targets, both American and foreign, than known targets in its spying on U.S. data networks.
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Washington Post, were not the intended surveillance targets, but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.
Many are Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents.
"Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks," wrote the Washington Post.
Despite not being a threat, the daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are still cataloged and recorded. Many files, which are described as useless by analysts, but still retained, are shockingly intimate. They tell of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. In other words, private information users thought was between themselves and the e-mail's recipient, not the NSA.
The newspaper reviewed about 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant messages, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts. The dates on the material span President Obama's first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA's domestic spying and collection program.
The NSA responded to the Washington Post's claim defending their practice.
"NSA's authority, under Section 702, is limited to targeting foreigners outside of the U.S. for foreign intelligence purposes. "As we have always said, we also incidentally intercept the communications of persons in contact with valid foreign intelligence targets," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines.
According to the TheDailyBeast.com, some Senators are not aware of the Washington Post's article.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate's armed services, appropriations, and judiciary committees said, "I don't really know the details about what they're saying in the paper. I know [NSA intelligence-gathering] is necessary. We're at war with radical Islam."
Last year Graham told Fox and Friends, "I'm a Verizon customer, I don't mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government's going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States."
Graham continued, "I'm glad the activity's going on but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to."
When host Brian Kilmeade asked him if he was sure about that, Graham said "I am sure that that's what they're doing."
Host Gretchen Carlson tried to clarify that it was only limited to those suspected of terrorism by citing the 100 million customers in the original report.
Graham responded, "I'm sure we should be doing this."
As it turns out, Lindsey Graham was wrong. Watch the video below.