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Published: Wednesday 07 August, 2013

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WASHINGTON Mathematician William Binney worked for the National Security Agency for four decades, and in the late 1990s he helped design a system to sort through the digital data the agency was sucking up in the explo sales on bags ding universe of bits and bytes.

When the agency picked a rival technology, he became disillusioned. He retired a month after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, and later went public with his concerns.

Binney and several other former NSA employees said that the cyberspying agency had created a massive digital dragnet to secretly track communications of Americans. Internet companies to spy on foreigners. American emails inevitably were swept up as well. intelligence officials and senior members of Congress say no. persons, and only for investigations into terrorism or foreign espionage. If your data is sitting on an NSA server somewhere but is never examined, they argue, is your privacy really being invaded?

What we create is a set of data and only under specific times can we query that data, Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, told a Senate committee Wednesday. And when we do that its auditable We dont get to swim through the data.

James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, used the metaphor of a li sales on bags brary catalog system. All the telephone metadata goes into the library, but taking a specific book off the shelf, opening it up and reading it would require a warrant, he told NBC News.

And Sen. Dianne Feinstein DCalif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the vast majority of records are never accessed and are deleted after five years.

Civil liberties activists arent convinced.

Phone records are sensitive as hell, said Julian Sanchez, who blogs on privacy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Who called a suicide hotline? Who called a divorce lawyer? A substance abuse counselor? Their gynecologist, followed by Planned Parenthood?

NSA officials say that kind of information is irrelevant to the agency. All of the surveillance programs Snowden revealed, they add, were approved by Congress and are supervised by federal judges.

Heres a lowlevel systems guy who copied a topsecret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and a presidential directive about cyber attacks, said Mark Rumold, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group in San Francisco. To say that there is a rigorous technical program in place to prevent broadbased lurking around through the data I have a hard time believing that.

In a lawsuit, Rumolds group argues the NSA has used a shadow network of surveillance devices to acquire communications of practically every American who uses the phone system or the Internet in an unprecedented suspicionless general search through the nations communications networks.

The group cites evidence from Mark Klein, who in 2006 went public with documents purporting to show a secret room at an AT facility in San Francisco where he believed the NSA was copying telecommunications traffic. AT lawyers have acknowledged in court that the documents are genuine without confirming that they show what Klein believes.

Klein said what he found was consistent with Snowdens disclosures on NSA programs codenamed Fairview and Blarney, which involved the collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past, as well as the PRISM program that accesses data from Internet companies.

Although the programs target foreigners, data on Americans are also captured. It is supposed to be discarded or blacked out under a process called minimization.

Officials decline to say precisely how minimization works, or whether the NSA collects more information on Americans than it has acknowledged.

The information black hole puzzles Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University who advises the Pentagon on privacy issues.

It is complete and utter nonsense, Cate says, to argue that answering questions about NSA surveillance would help Americas enemies.

Foreign governments and terrorists already know the NSA is targeting their telephones, emails and other communications, Cate said. Thats why Osama bin Ladens compound wasnt connected to the Internet, he added. sales on bags

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