A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search huge Internet databases of millions of people without getting prior authorization, according to documents given to The Guardian in London by Edward Snowden.
According to The Guardian
, the program called XKeyscore is the "widest reaching" system for collecting intelligence from the Internet. The databases capture everything from email to online chats, browsing histories and social media activity, such as private Facebook chats.
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The revelations appear to confirm Snowden's assertions during a June 10 interview in which he said, "I, sitting at my desk could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email."
At the time, US officials denied that specific claim, but the XKeyscore training materials detail how analysts can use it and other systems to comb through huge agency databases by using a simple on-screen form and a broad justification for accessing the information, without needing authorization from a court or any NSA personnel, The Guardian reported.
Analysts can also use the program to get "real-time" interception of a person's internet activity.
The database can be searched by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the Internet activity was conducted, or the type of browser used. It can also access the content of any email captured by the system.
XKeyscore can only store the data for a limited amount of time, but in 2012, there were at least 41 billion total records collected and stored in the program for a single 30-day period.
NSA documents claim that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured as a direct result of using XKeyscore.
In a statement to The Guardian, the NSA said, "XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA's lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system. Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true."
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