The Wall Street Journal reports:
The National Security Agency—which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens—has built a surveillance network that covers more Americans' Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say.
The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.
The NSA's filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S. But officials say the system's broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.
Most shocking from the report is that the NSA and FBI monitored every text message and email sent to and from the Salt Lake City area around the time of the 2002 Winter Olympics:
For the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, officials say, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and NSA arranged with Qwest Communications International Inc. to use intercept equipment for a period of less than six months around the time of the event. It monitored the content of all email and text communications in the Salt Lake City area.
This all in the name of preventing terrorism, of course. Reading every citizen's emails and text messages simply based on where they live goes beyond the Big Brother even Orwell imagined. Not only that but this blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment, in effect, has a chilling effect on the First. Certainly knowing that all your communication is being read and monitored by an increasingly overreaching government is enough to give anyone pause before they type.
We hear time and time again that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms and seek to destroy our way of life. But the more we allow our government to spy on us, tap our phones, read our emails, and grope our children and grandmothers at airports, we have to ask ourselves, have the terrorists already won? As the historian Will Durant once said, "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within."
Tags: NSA, Fourth Amendment