Months after former government contractor Edward Snowden first revealed the scope of the NSA surveillance program, details into what the agency actually does with the information it has gathered have now been published in the "New York Times," and they're adding fuel to the growing concern over privacy.
According to the documents leaked to the paper, the agency isn't only tracking metadata from your phone calls and email logs, it's using that information to create a sophisticated web of social connections of some U.S. citizens.
“Since November 2010, the NSA has been using all the information it has been collecting to unlock as many secrets as possible about certain American citizens who officials believe may have a link to foreign intelligence interests,” CNN's Pamela Brown reports. “As one privacy expert put it, the way the information is being used is the digital equivalence of tailing a suspect.”
Karen Greenberg, director at the Center on National Security Fordham Law School says, “We assume as Americans that if somebody—if the government is looking at your information it's because they have a reason, because you're suspected of a crime.”
According to the documents leaked by Snowden, the NSA uses software to chart individuals’ social ties, locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information. The agency can also draw on material from Facebook profiles, GPS location information, insurance information, property records and other public and commercial sources to better analyze Americans' phone and email logs—all intended to help the agency "discover and track" when there's a link between an intelligence interest overseas and a U.S. citizen.
The NSA released the following statement: "We know there is a false perception out there that the NSA listens to the phone calls and reads the emails of everyday Americans, aiming to unlawfully monitor or profile U.S. citizens. It's just not the case."
“NSA Chief Keith Alexander has said a person's individual data is analyzed only when there's a foreign intelligence justification,” Brown reports.
“The leaked documents do not specify how many American citizens have been caught up in the effort and how many have actually been involved in wrongdoing,"according to the "New York Times."
Brown adds, "Now in the wake of the recent disclosures, President Obama has ordered a review of its surveillance policies.”