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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Despite Government Denials, Documents Show NSA Continues Harvesting Americans' Data

Jesselyn Radack , June 28, 2013

The latest in a series of revolutionary reporting from The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald reveals that under Obama, the NSA continued the Bush-era domestic datamining program Stellar Wind until 2011, and continues todayto collect Americans' online data.

A review of top-secret NSA documents suggests that the surveillance agency still collects and sifts through large quantities of Americans' online data – despite the Obama administration's insistence that the program that began under Bush ended in 2011. . . . On December 31, 2012, an SSO official wrote that ShellTrumpet had just "processed its One Trillionth metadata record."

The Stellar Wind revelations in The Guardian provide more documentary proof of NSA's massive domestic spying network vacuuming up vast streams of Americans' data, a spying operation my clients NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe have warned the American public about for years.

Here's what The New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported in May 2011:

Binney, for his part, believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America, in case the government wants to retrieve the details later. In the past few years, the N.S.A. has built enormous electronic-storage facilities in Texas and Utah. Binney says that an N.S.A. e-mail database can be searched...

with “dictionary selection,” in the manner of Google. After 9/11, he says, “General Hayden reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”

Binney described Stellar Wind for leading NSA expert Jim Bamford in Wired last year:
For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. William Binney was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network . . . He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US.With each new disclosure, it becomes more clear that the government has deliberately concealed its massive domestic spying operation and misled the public about the extent to which the NSA uses its surveillance tactics against innocent Americans. It is thanks to whistleblowers like Drake, Binney, Wiebe, and Snowden that the public can now have a more open debate about the wisdom and efficacy of these spying powers and that the Courts and Congress are afforded an opportunity to engage in more aggressive and badly needed oversight.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Kos.

Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.