In the above video, Siobhan Gorman (WSJ) reports on the latest revelations of NSA surveillance capability. In an interview with John Hockenberry (The TakeAway), below, she provides additional details.
The Journal reporting demonstrates that the NSA, in conjunction with telecommunications companies, has built a system that can reach deep into the U.S. Internet backbone and cover 75% of traffic in the country, including not only metadata but the content of online communications. The report also explains how the NSA relies on probabilities, algorithms and filtering techniques to sift through the data and find information related to foreign intelligence investigations.
According to the Journal, telecom companies are key to the NSA’s development of a surveillance system that covers “roughly 75% of U.S. telecommunications,” and is accessible via a court order.
The telecoms have a system in place designed to do at least initial filtering and send streams of traffic most responsive to NSA’s request to NSA machines, which then filter that stream of traffic for “selectors”—for instance, perhaps a set of IP addresses—and sift out the data that matches.