XKeyscore NSA Tool Collects 'Nearly Everything': Snowden's Leaked Report

Thursday, 01 Aug 2013 02:45 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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XKeyscore is the name of the top secret National Security Agency program that allows analysts to search "nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet" without authorization, according to documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Guardian's Glen Greenwald, who first broke the Edward Snowden story, wrote Wednesday that the XKeyscore program is the "widest reaching" system developed specifically for intelligence searching on the Internet.

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Edward Snowden, who was just granted asylum in Russia for the next year, claimed in a June 10 interview that he could, "sitting at my desk, wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email."

U.S. officials threw cold water on Snowden's claim.

"It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do," Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said at the time.

But XKeyscore training materials Snowden revealed show how analysts can use the program to mine enormous agency databases by simply filling out an online form. NSA agents only have to give broad justifications for the search to carry it out, and the request is not reviewed by a court or any other NSA personnel before it is processed. XKeyscore heightens the debate over whether NSA surveillance programs transcend an individual's right to privacy.

David Brown, who co-authored of the book "Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry," told NBC News Wednesday that XKeyscore is the first point of collection for massive amounts of data, and from there it gets filtered into different channels.

The NSA's biggest challenge is sorting through massive amounts of data, but XKeyscore resolves that issue.

"One of the things in (the Guardian) article was that the NSA can't just pull up every email that's been sent through America Online or whatever," Brown told NBC News. "(The NSA) is playing the long game here. They've got this data today, but they don't need to process it today."

Brown said that the data "can sit around until the technology is there" to automate its processing.

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