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The NSA May Have Access to 75 Percent of Domestic Internet Traffic

New revelations indicate that the agency's domestic surveillance capacity is much broader, and older, than what was previously reported. By Abby Ohlheiser.

The NSA's data collection programs go back further — and cover more territory — than previously reported, according to a Wall Street Journal report out Tuesday.

Here's the Cliff's Notes, since we've had a lot of these lately: According to the Journal's sources, the NSA started setting up internet intercepts (specifically, the Blarney program) before 2001, based on arrangements with foreign internet providers. Those intercepts expanded their reach rapidly after the September 11 attacks, to the point where the laws laid out to limit the NSA's surveillance powers are applied with astonishingly broad parameters. And it looks like that happened pretty quickly. For instance, the agency monitored the communications of the entire Salt Lake City area for about 6 months:

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.

The agency's partnerships with telecommunications companies allow the NSA to potentially access to 75 percent of all American internet traffic. And according to the Journal, the agency can't seem to completely enforce its own limitations on their programs. While the NSA's data mining programs focus on foreign intelligence, it's "inevitable," the paper writes, that U.S. some communications — both "metadata" and content — end up stored in the agency's servers.

Read more at The Atlantic Wire.

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