The National Security Agency has the capacity to reach roughly 75 percent of all US Internet traffic and while we’ve been told this is all done to target terrorists and the like, the agency sometimes retains the written content of e-mail messages sent between citizens in the US according to the latest report from the Wall Street Journal.
Current and former officials further told the publication that the NSA also filters domestic phone calls made over the Internet. The filtering is done with the cooperation of numerous telecom companies under the guise of searching for communications that either originate or terminate abroad or are entirely foreign but happen to pass through the US.
These programs go by a number of names including Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, just to name a few. Blarney is said to be associated with AT&T although naturally, the telecom declined to comment when questioned by the Journal. More than a dozen filtering locations are spread across the US at major Internet junctions, we’re told.
None of this is really new behavior, however, as the US government was intercepting Internet traffic well before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Afterwards, the NSA expanded the reach of surveillance programs to collect more data when the government broadened its definition of reasonable collection.
For example, in the months leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the FBI and the NSA worked with Qwest Communications International to intercept and monitor the content of all e-mail and text communications in the Salt Lake City area.