BBC points out this information “is particularly significant because President Obama has previously said that US citizens were not targeted by the surveillance, which he said struck “the right balance” between security and privacy.”
UPDATE: A WaPo video shows Obama minimizing extent of NSA surveillance in June, denying collection of content. Elsewhere, he denied spying on Americans and those who live in America, but I cannot find that WaPo clip.
According to the WaPo, NSA Director Keith Alexander is another purveyor of Big Lies.
“Ours is a noble cause,” NSA Director Keith B. Alexander said during a public event last month. “Our job is to defend this nation and to protect our civil liberties and privacy.”
Excerpts from the Post follow:
The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.
Rather than targeting individual users, the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world’s e-mail and instant messaging accounts. Analysis of that data enables the agency to search for hidden connections and to map relationships within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets…
Contact lists stored online provide the NSA with far richer sources of data than call records alone. Address books commonly include not only names and e-mail addresses, but also telephone numbers, street addresses, and business and family information. Inbox listings of e-mail accounts stored in the “cloud” sometimes contain content, such as the first few lines of a message.
Taken together, the data would enable the NSA, if permitted, to draw detailed maps of a person’s life, as told by personal, professional, political and religious connections. The picture can also be misleading, creating false “associations” with ex-spouses or people with whom an account holder has had no contact in many years.
The NSA has not been authorized by Congress or the special intelligence court that oversees foreign surveillance to collect contact lists in bulk, and senior intelligence officials said it would be illegal to do so from facilities in the United States. The agency avoids the restrictions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by intercepting contact lists from access points “all over the world,” one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program. “None of those are on U.S. territory.”
UPDATE: Don’t miss the PBS Newshour interview with two former NSA officials, titled “NSA Collects ‘Word for Word’ Every Domestic Communication, Says Former Analyst.” Notable quotes include:
“… no digital communication is secure.”–Tim Clemente
“… they (NSA) are collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country.”–Russell Tice
“… that’s why they had to build Bluffdale, that facility in Utah with that massive amount of storage that could store all these recordings and all the data being passed along the fiberoptic networks of the world. I mean, you could store 100 years of the world’s communications here. That’s for content storage. That’s not for metadata.”–William Binney
UPDATE: And another BBC piece from September: The US National Security Agency (NSA) is reported to have cracked the security codes which protect data on iPhones, Blackberries and Android devices.