WSJ: NSA programs cover 75% of Internet traffic, keeps some e-mail content

The National Security Agency’s Internet communications surveillance is so vast that it can reach nearly 75% of all online communications, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama has gone to great lengths recently to downplay the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, telling Americans that the government isn’t spying on them and publicly discussing reforms that would protect privacy. But the Wall Street Journal’s report indicates that the snooping programs do in fact retain both email and phone communications between American citizens.

“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,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

“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.,” the paper added. “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.”

The NSA contends that the spying programs are “legal” and “respectful of Americans’ privacy,” nevermind the fact that they are obtaining this information, even if incidentally, through a means that is counter to the protections established by the Fourth Amendment.

But President Obama and other defenders of the program insist that there is oversight for these spying programs. But a former telecoms executive told the Wall Street Journal that “[t]here’s technically and physically nothing preventing a much broader surveillance.”

Well, backlash from Americans through their elected representatives could provide a means to at least give proper oversight and institute reforms that limit the use of these programs to actual investigations of terrorism, which is what Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment would have done.

While we do need tools that guard against terrorism, we must ensure our constitutionally guaranteed liberties, even if that creates an “inconvenience” for the government; otherwise, none of our liberties are secured.

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