The Washington Post reported July 5 that 400,000 or more innocent Americans have their intimate e-mail and text messages read by the NSA every year without the constitutionally-required warrant and probable cause. Those Americans were caught up in a nexus of surveillance where the NSA collects data on people who have some innocent connection with a foreign target of surveillance.
The Post noted that since the Obama administration has admitted to searching the accounts of nearly 90,000 foreign persons, it means that “at the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.” Perhaps more importantly, the Post noted that “Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents.” Therefore, 400,000 or more innocent Americans have their texts and e-mail messages read without a warrant or probable cause by NSA analysts annually.
The Post surveyed some 11,000 accounts surveilled by the NSA without a warrant provided by the former NSA systems analyst, and found the following:
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.
This “foreign” surveillance program is different from the equally unconstitutional telephone metadata program, where the NSA collects the numbers, duration, and times of every Americans' telephone calls and stores them for at least five years in a central database.
Among the samples of “foreign” surveillance of Americans obtained by the Washington Post from Edward Snowden are examples of “files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, [which] have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.”
The Post continued:
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