The National Security Agency reportedly can collect three out of every four email messages as part of it electronic surveillance program. This initiative is said to be even more far-reaching that what was originally revealed by NSA leaker/whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Current and former government officials have reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that the NSA can reach about 75 percent of all US Internet traffic with the help of tech companies as part of its monitoring of foreign communications.
"The National Security Agency -- which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens -- has built a surveillance network that covers more Americans' Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say... 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... 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."
These metadata collection efforts apparently have code names such as Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium, and Stormbrew.
Privacy advocates and civil libertarians across the political spectrum have strenuously argued that warrantless electronic surveillance of ordinary US citizens as part of a digital dragnet violates the 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
Separately, reports have emerged that the NSA has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority in connection with domestic surveillance thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broader powers in 2008.
President Obama has previously insisted that there is no domestic spying program but has also proposed improved oversight of NSA surveillance.
In response to the Journal report, the NSA told Reuters that its mission "is centered on defeating foreign adversaries who aim to harm the country. We defend the United States from such threats while fiercely working to protect the privacy rights of U.S. persons."
Where should society draw the line between security and privacy?