‘Reading Your Diary’: Latest NSA Revelations Show Decade of Bulk Internet Spying
Bulk collection of internet metadata, initiated by Bush and continued under Obama administration for two years
Thursday, June 27, 2013
For two years, the Obama Administration conducted “bulk collections” of internet metadata—information akin to ‘reading one’s diary’—on Americans and foreigners alike, according to secret documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and newly revealed by the Guardian.
According to the documents, under the program called Stellar Wind which ran for ten years beginning in 2001, a federal judge on the secret surveillance FISA court panel would automatically approve a “collection of bulk internet metadata” every 90 days.
Though the program was stopped in 2011 (for reasons that remain unclear), what is perhaps most troubling about the latest revelations is how experts explain that the collection of “internet metadata”—which the government continues to claim is harmless—is actually the heart of how the NSA is able to infiltrate the detailed working of a citizen’s private life.
“In reality, it is hard to distinguish email metadata from email content,” writes the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, who add that this information is much more revealing and invasive than phone metadata, which is frequently viewed by and shared with phone companies.
“The calls you make can reveal a lot, but now that so much of our lives are mediated by the internet, your IP [internet protocol] logs are really a real-time map of your brain: what are you reading about, what are you curious about, what personal ad are you responding to (with a dedicated email linked to that specific ad), what online discussions are you participating in, and how often?” Cato Institute research fellow Julian Sanchez told Greenwald and Ackerman.