XKeyscore: NSA Program Tracks ‘Nearly Everything’ Users Do Online

XKeyscore is the name of a NSA data tracking program which can collect information about almost any person’s internet use. New information on the program was released by The Guardian Wednesday.

The article details XKeyscore, known within the NSA as the “widest-reaching” system in existence for gathering internet user intelligence. The program is a database of internet user data. From emails, to online chats, to web use history — all of these are searchable by NSA agents and contractors. Millions of people are in the database, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

One of these documents boasts that XKeyscore tracks “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.” Agents can also use the program to follow a person’s internet use in real-time. Leaked presentation slides show the easy access the NSA and contractors have to this type of information through XKeyscore.

For the NSA to spy on US citizens a special warrant from a FISA court is needed. However, for foreign persons this is not true. The leaked documents show that tracing communications between a US citizen and non-citizen does not require a warrant, however. For these types of searches, agents have only to fill out a short form online explaining why they need to use the program.

NSA analysts can search XKeyscore a number of ways. A name, a telephone number, IP address, and more can be used to search for a surveillance target. The leaked documents say that XKeyscore has aided NSA agents in arresting 300 suspected terrorists by 2008.

In an interview in June, whistleblower Edward Snowden made claims that he or anyone else in the NSA could tap anyone’s email, including President Obama’s. This claim has been dismissed by US officials. Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, went so far as to say that Snowden was “lying” and that such a program was “impossible.”

Newly released information on XKeyscore is expected to add fuel to an already heated debate over national security and privacy rights.

[Image via ShutterStock]

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