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Big Brother

Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,353
NSA secretly tapped Google, Yahoo data centers worldwide, new report claims
Published October 30, 2013
FoxNews.com

Massive cloud networks from companies like Google and Yahoo cache and serve up much of the data on the Internet -- and the NSA has secretly tapped into the unencrypted links behind those company’s enormous servers, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

By tapping into that link, the NSA can collect data at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, the Post reported -- including not just foreign citizens and “metadata” but emails, videos and audio from American citizens.

Operation MUSCULAR, a joint program of the NSA and its British equivalent GCHQ, relies on an unnamed telecommunications provider outside of the U.S. to offer secret access to a cable or switch through with Google and Yahoo pass unencrypted traffic between their servers. The massive servers run by the company are carefully guarded and strictly audited, the companies say; according to Google, buildings housing its servers are guarded around the clock by trained personnel, and secured with heat-sensitive cameras, biometric verification, and more.

Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw a drawing of the NSA’s hack revealed by Edward Snowden; the drawing includes a smiley face next to the point at which the agency apparently was able to tap into the world’s data.

“I hope you publish this,” one of them said.

White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas.

However, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander said Wednesday his agency doesn't access such networks servers without a court order, according to Politco.

In a statement, Google said it was “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity.”

“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” the company said.

At Yahoo, a spokeswoman said: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

Obama said in an interview in June "unequivocally" that the NSA cannot and has not listened to the telephone calls nor target the e-mails of a U.S. person
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,354
By Shaun Nichols The Register:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a rare mea culpa on behalf of the US government and its NSA surveillance platforms.

Speaking at a panel discussion for the Open Government Partnership, Kerry said that in its efforts to thwart terrorists, the US had gone "too far" in its collection of personal data, but insisted that reports of massive data hoarding were untrue.

"I assure you, innocent people are not being abused in this process," Kerry said, "but there is an effort to gather information, and yes, in some cases it has reached too far, inappropriately."

"Our President is determined to clarify and is now doing a thorough review in order that nobody will have a sense of abuse."

Sentiment of such a "sense of abuse" has been rampant among both the domestic and international communities in recent days.

Earlier this week, a number of major providers, including Google and Yahoo, were found to have unwittingly supplied the government with some 180 million records via NSA surveillance programs.

The disclosure adds to an already hefty government data repository first uncovered with the revelation of the PRISM platform by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the now-infamous consultant living under asylum in Russia.

Further reports from the international community have suggested that the spying activities have also extended to the diplomatic arena, as reports out of Germany indicated that US agents may have tapped lines of communication used by government officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Even when fessing up to the use of heavy-handed tactics, Kerry remained defiant on the most recent reports, denying that tens of millions of people were having their data slurped through the NSA pipeline.

"There is a tremendous amount of exaggeration and misreporting in some of what is out there," he said.

"What we are trying to do is, in a random way, find ways of trying to learn if in fact there is a threat that we need to respond to."
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,357
Take with a grain of salt: RLE

NSA Can Track Your Location Even When Your Phone is Turned Off

Feds have had technology for at least 10 years

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
November 13, 2013

Did you know that the NSA can track the location of your phone even when it is turned off and the batteries have been removed?

This admission went largely unnoticed in a Washington Post report entitled NSA growth fueled by need to target terrorists.

In the article, writer Dana Priest details how teams of NSA employees stationed around the globe are dedicated to tracking phones in real time.

By September 2004, a new NSA technique enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off. JSOC troops called this “The Find,” and it gave them thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq, according to members of the unit.

At the same time, the NSA developed a new computer linkup called the Real Time Regional Gateway into which the military and intelligence officers could feed every bit of data or seized documents and get back a phone number or list of potential targets. It also allowed commanders to see, on a screen, every type of surveillance available in a given territory.

The technique by which the NSA can wiretap cellphones even when they are turned off and powered down is most likely being performed with the complicity of telecommunications companies who have proven friendly to NSA snooping. Trojan horse programs disguised behind routine system updates are the likely method through which the NSA gains direct access to millions of Americans’ cellphones and other devices.

“You may recall the fact that Verizon and AT&T notably did not sign the collective letter asking the government to allow affected companies to release information on government requests for data,” writes Tim Cushing. “Given this background, it’s not unimaginable that Verizon and AT&T would accommodate the NSA (and FBI) if it wished to use their update systems to push these trojans.”

As we have also previously highlighted, terms of agreement for many of the apps you download to your smartphone now use your microphone to listen to you and your camera to take pictures of you without your knowledge.

The notion of the federal government tracking your location via your cellphone is particularly prescient given yesterday’s report concerning the DHS-funded mesh network system that Seattle Police eventually intend to roll out across the city, but have temporarily been forced to deactivate due to a privacy outcry.

Aruba Networks, the company behind the system of wi-fi hubs which can record the last 1,000 locations of cellphones belonging to anyone in the coverage area, bragged in their promotional material that the grid could track “rogue” or “unassociated” devices.

In other words, even if you do not allow your phone to connect to such wi-fi networks, they can still access your device, record its current and historical location, as well as download private information from your apps and other settings.
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,358
From Techdirt:

Even Powering Down A Cell Phone Can't Keep The NSA From Tracking Its Location
from the making-a-strong-case-for-Snowden's-fridg­e-logic dept

We know how much information the NSA can grab in terms of cell phone usage -- namely, calls made and received and length of conversations, along with phone and phone card metadata like IMSI and IMEI numbers. It can even grab location data, although for some reason, it claims it never does. (No matter, plenty of law enforcement agencies like gathering location data, so it's not like that information is going to waste [bleak approximation of laughter]).

According to Ryan Gallagher at Slate, the NSA, along with other agencies, are able to something most would feel to be improbable, if not impossible: track the location of cell phones even if they're turned off.

On Monday, the Washington Post published a story focusing on how massively the NSA has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Buried within it, there was a small but striking detail: By September 2004, the NSA had developed a technique that was dubbed “The Find” by special operations officers. The technique, the Post reports, was used in Iraq and “enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off.” This helped identify “thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq,” according to members of the special operations unit interviewed by the Post.

Normally, turning a cell phone off cuts the connection to towers, effectively taking it off the grid and making it only traceable to the last point it was connected. The Post article doesn't explain exactly how the NSA accomplishes it, but other incidents over the past half-decade offer a few indications of how this might be done.

In 2006, it was reported that the FBI had deployed spyware to infect suspects’ mobile phones and record data even when they were turned off... In 2009, thousands of BlackBerry users in the United Arab Emirates were targeted with spyware that was disguised as a legitimate update. The update drained users’ batteries and was eventually exposed by researchers, who identified that it had apparently been designed by U.S. firm SS8, which sells “lawful interception” tools to help governments conduct surveillance of communications.

The FBI's use, in which cell phones' microphones were remotely activated to record conversations (even with the phones turned off), probably had some bearing on Snowden's request that journalists power down their phones and place them in the fridge.

According to Gallagher, the NSA may be using mass updates to infect phones of targets overseas (and presumably, any "non-targets" applying the same faux update). This would be difficult, but not impossible, and considering what we've learned about the NSA's far-reaching surveillance net, certainly not implausible. A couple of details in support of that theory:

First, two telcos that provide service to millions of cell phone users are known to be overly cooperative with intelligence agencies. You may recall the fact that Verizon and AT&T notably did not sign the collective letter asking the government to allow affected companies to release information on government requests for data. Given this background, it's not unimaginable that Verizon and AT&T would accommodate the NSA (and FBI) if it wished to use their update systems to push these trojans.

Add to this the fact that Microsoft and others have allowed intelligence agencies early access to security flaws, allowing them to exploit these for a certain length of time before informing the public and patching the holes. Add these two together and you've got the means and the opportunity to serve snooping malware to millions of unsuspecting cell phone users.

Sparing usage, properly targeted isn't really an issue. But if updates containing spyware have been pushed to the thousands of non-targeted individuals just to ensure the targets are included, it becomes more problematic, and the track record of the two agencies who have used this technology is far from pristine.
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,363
Former Top NSA Official: “We Are Now In A Police State”

Washington’s Blog
December 18, 2013

Bill Binney is the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information. A 32-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, Binney was the senior technical director within the agency and managed thousands of NSA employees.
Binney has been interviewed by virtually all of the mainstream media, including CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Fox News, PBS and many others.

Last year, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:

We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.

But today, Binney told Washington’s Blog that the U.S. has already become a police state.

By way of background, the government is spying on virtually everything we do.

All of the information gained by the NSA through spying is then shared with federal, state and local agencies, and they are using that information to prosecute petty crimes such as drugs and taxes. The agencies are instructed to intentionally “launder” the information gained through spying, i.e. to pretend that they got the information in a more legitimate way … and to hide that from defense attorneys and judges.

This is a bigger deal than you may realize, as legal experts say that there are so many federal and state laws in the United States, that no one can keep track of them all … and everyone violates laws every day without even knowing it.

The NSA also ships Americans’ most confidential, sensitive information to foreign countries like Israel(and here), the UK and other countries … so they can “unmask” the information and give it back to the NSA … or use it for their own purposes.

Binney told us today:

The main use of the collection from these [NSA spying] programs [is] for law enforcement.

So, they have to do a “Parallel Construction” and not tell the courts or prosecution or defense the original data used to arrest people. This I call: a “planned programed perjury policy” directed by US law enforcement.

This is a total corruption of the justice system not only in our country but around the world. This is a totalitarian process – means we are now in a police state.



We asked Binney a follow-up question:

You say “this also applies to ‘Foreign Counterparts.’” Does that mean that foreign agencies can also “launder” the info gained from NSA spying? Or that data gained through foreign agencies’ spying can be “laundered” and used by U.S. agencies?

Binney responded:

For countries like the five eyes (US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand) and probably some others it probably works both ways. But for others that have relationships with FBI or DEA etc., they probably are given the data to used to arrest people but are not told the source or given copies of the data.
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,364

Homeland Security
German magazine claims NSA hacking unit uses powerful methods to obtain data
Published December 29, 2013
FoxNews.com


A German magazine, citing internal documents, claims the NSA’s hacking unit uses James Bond-style spy gear to obtain data, including intercepting computer deliveries and outfitting them with espionage software.

Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets.

Citing the internal documents, the magazine said Sunday that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen."

“During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries -- nearly everywhere in the world,” the report said. “In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.”

Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of high-tech gadgets for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

The NSA doesn't just rely on the Bond-style spy gear, the magazine said. Some of the attacks described by Der Spiegel exploit weaknesses in the architecture of the Internet to deliver malicious software to specific computers. Others take advantage of weaknesses in hardware or software distributed by some of the world's leading information technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Inc. and China's Huawei Technologies Ltd., the magazine reported.

Der Spiegel cited a 2008 mail order catalog-style list of vulnerabilities that NSA spies could exploit from companies such as Irvine, California-based Western Digital Corp. or Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. The magazine said that suggested the agency was "compromising the technology and products of American companies."

Old-fashioned methods get a mention too. Der Spiegel said that if the NSA tracked a target ordering a new computer or other electronic accessories, TAO could tap its allies in the FBI and the CIA, intercept the hardware in transit, and take it to a secret workshop where it could be discretely fitted with espionage software before being sent on its way.

Intercepting computer equipment in such a way is among the NSA's "most productive operations," and has helped harvest intelligence from around the world, one document cited by Der Spiegel stated.

One of the most striking reported revelations concerned the NSA's alleged ability to spy on Microsoft Corp.'s crash reports, familiar to many users of the Windows operating system as the dialogue box which pops up when a game freezes or a Word document dies. The reporting system is intended to help Microsoft engineers improve their products and fix bugs, but Der Spiegel said the NSA was also sifting through the reports to help spies break into machines running Windows. One NSA document cited by the magazine appeared to poke fun at Microsoft's expense, replacing the software giant's standard error report message with the words: "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint (signals intelligence) system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine."

Microsoft did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment, but the company is one of several U.S. firms that have demanded more transparency from the NSA — and worked to bolster their security — in the wake of the revelations of former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, whose disclosures have ignited an international debate over privacy and surveillance.

Der Spiegel did not explicitly say where its cache NSA documents had come from, although the magazine has previously published a series of stories based on documents leaked by Snowden, and one of Snowden's key contacts — American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras — was listed among the article's six authors.

No one was immediately available at Der Spiegel to clarify to The Associated Press whether Snowden was the source for the latest story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,366
‘Welcome to the United States of Paranoia’

By Michael Walsh

February 1, 2014 | 1:30pm

‘Welcome to the United States of Paranoia’
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn as he returns from stops in Wisconsin and Tennessee, to the White House in Washington, Thursday Jan. 30, 2014. Photo: AP

Between the NSA’s power and the IRS’s revenge, how can Americans not be worried about the opinions they express?

Feel like Big Brother is watching you these days? You’re not alone.

“This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario,” wrote the late William Safire of The New York Times in 2002, in the panicky aftermath of 9/11. “Here is what will happen to you: Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive . . . will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’ ”

Twelve years on, this is the world we live in, but worse. Through a combination of fear, cowardice, political opportunism and bureaucratic metastasis, the erstwhile land of the free has been transformed into a nation of closely watched subjects — a country of 300 million potential criminals, whose daily activities need constant monitoring.

Once the most secret of organizations, the NSA has become even more famous than the CIA, the public face of Big Brother himself. At its headquarters on Savage Road in Fort Meade, Md., its omnivorous Black Widow supercomputer hoovers up data both foreign and domestic, while its new $2 billion data center near Bluffdale, Utah — the highly classified Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center — houses, well, just about everything. As James Bamford wrote in Wired magazine two years ago, as the center was being completed:

“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private e-mails, cellphone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’ ”

The question is: To what end?

The administration says: Trust us, we’re only after the bad guys.

But considering President Obama’s track record, how is “trust us” a consoling argument?

The IRS admitted targeting conservative groups before the 2012 election, subjecting them to extra scrutiny and delaying their nonprofit status. One group, Friends of Abe, says its application was held up for two years and they were asked to hand over a list of its members. Another, the National Organization for Marriage, alleged that the IRS leaked its 2008 tax return and donor lists.

Meanwhile, a number of Obama’s critics have noticed how audits seem to follow their outspokenness — a coincidence, to be sure.

But how about conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, who was charged with a felony for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions — something that warranted a much lesser charge for other defendants? Is his prosecution just a coincidence?

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz doesn’t think so. “The idea of charging him with a felony for this doesn’t sound like a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” he said. “I can’t help but think that [D’Souza’s] politics have something to do with it . . . It smacks of selective prosecution.”

One could conclude that the administration can’t keep private information private — and is happy to seek retribution on those who disagree with it.

The irony is, all this snooping may not really be necessary. These days, Americans can’t expose themselves enough: Their smartphones constantly broadcast their whereabouts to law enforcement, while millions cheerfully post intimate personal details and embarrassing photographs of themselves and their families on social media.

The fact is, privacy has become a thing of the past, destroyed by the rise of information technology, the force of government, and the willing surrender of the citizenry.

But how many Americans’ hands are pausing over a keyboard these days, wondering if posting their opinion over Facebook isn’t putting themselves at risk?

The NSA revelations and the IRS scandal have sent a chill through freedom of speech and expression in this country.

“Trust us” cannot be the answer.

As the old saying goes: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,378
Lily Dane
Freedom Outpost

Snowden Bombshell: NSA Poses as Facebook – Hacks/Installs Malware on Computers to Steal Computer Data

Just when you thought the NSA couldn't get any more detestable, new information released yesterday reveals that the agency has expanded its hacking capabilities and can infect millions of computers with malware "imprints."

Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provide details about the groundbreaking technology, which uses automated systems to hack into computers on a mass scale without much human oversight.

The documents also revealed that the NSA has pretended to be Facebook to install its malware, according to The Intercept:

In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target's computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer's microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.

The automated system the NSA is using is codenamed TURBINE and is designed to "allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually." TURBINE is listed as part of a larger NSA surveillance plan called "Owning the Net."

Taxpayer money in the amount of $67.6 million was sought by the agency in 2013, with some specifically designated for expansion of TURBINE for "a wider variety" of networks and "enabling greater automation of computer network exploitation."

The Intercept explained how TURBINE works:

TURBINE was designed to make deploying malware much easier for the NSA's hackers by reducing their role in overseeing its functions. The system would "relieve the user from needing to know/care about the details," the NSA's Technology Directorate notes in one secret document from 2009. "For example, a user should be able to ask for 'all details about application X' and not need to know how and where the application keeps files, registry entries, user application data, etc."

In practice, this meant that TURBINE would automate crucial processes that previously had to be performed manually – including the configuration of the implants as well as surveillance collection, or "tasking," of data from infected systems. But automating these processes was about much more than a simple technicality. The move represented a major tactical shift within the NSA that was expected to have a profound impact – allowing the agency to push forward into a new frontier of surveillance operations.

The ramifications are starkly illustrated in one undated top-secret NSA document, which describes how the agency planned for TURBINE to "increase the current capability to deploy and manage hundreds of Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) and Computer Network Attack (CNA) implants to potentially millions of implants." (CNE mines intelligence from computers and networks; CNA seeks to disrupt, damage or destroy them.)

According to the secret files, the system has been in use since at least July 2010, and the NSA has already deployed between 85,000 and 100,000 implants worldwide.

The NSA has employed the use of spam emails that trick users into clicking on malicious links. This "back-door implant", codenamed WILLOWVIXEN, infects computers within 8 seconds. This method isn't working as well as it used to, according to documents, because people have become more careful about clicking links in emails.

Enter QUANTUMHAND, the system the NSA uses to pose as Facebook:

In one man-on-the-side technique, codenamed QUANTUMHAND, the agency disguises itself as a fake Facebook server. When a target attempts to log in to the social media site, the NSA transmits malicious data packets that trick the target's computer into thinking they are being sent from the real Facebook. By concealing its malware within what looks like an ordinary Facebook page, the NSA is able to hack into the targeted computer and covertly siphon out data from its hard drive.

Facebook has denied any knowledge of the program, and told the National Journal that the site is now protected from such attacks:

"We have no evidence of this alleged activity. In any case, this method of network level disruption does not work for traffic carried over HTTPS, which Facebook finished integrating by default last year.

"If government agencies indeed have privileged access to network service providers, any site running only HTTP could conceivably have its traffic misdirected."

Matt Blaze, a surveillance and cryptography expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Intercept he has concerns about the NSA using TURBINE and QUANTUMHAND together:

"As soon as you put this capability in the backbone infrastructure, the software and security engineer in me says that's terrifying.

"Forget about how the NSA is intending to use it. How do we know it is working correctly and only targeting who the NSA wants? And even if it does work correctly, which is itself a really dubious assumption, how is it controlled?"

Malware installed by the NSA is capable of performing different tasks on infected computers, as this list compiled by the LA Times outlines:

Use a computer's microphone to record audio
Use a computer's webcam to take photos
Record a computer's Internet browsing history
Record login details and passwords use for Web services
Log users' keystrokes
Extract data from flash drives when they are plugged into infected computers
Block users from accessing certain websites
Corrupt files that computers attempt to download

In response to the story, the NSA provided the following statement:

"Signals intelligence shall be collected exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose."

Do they really expect us to believe that?
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,382
How the government security misdirection is done:

https://firstlook.org...­
Richard E.
Conservative_Vet
Plattsmouth, NE
Post #: 1,385
US confirms warrantless searches of Americans
Published April 01, 2014
Associated Press

The Obama administration has conducted warrantless searches of Americans' communications as part of the National Security Agency's surveillance operations that target foreigners located outside of the U.S., the administration's top intelligence official confirmed in a letter to Congress disclosed Tuesday.

These searches were authorized by a secret surveillance court in 2011, but it was unclear until Tuesday whether any such searches on Americans had been conducted.

The recent acknowledgement of warrantless searches on Americans offers more insight into U.S. government surveillance operations put in place after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The government has broadly interpreted these laws to allow for the collection of communications of innocent Americans, practices the Obama administration maintains are legal. But President Barack Obama has promised to review some of these programs to determine whether the government should be conducting this type of surveillance at all.

"Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans' emails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant," Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado said in a joint statement. "However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans' communications."

Wyden has pressed the administration on whether these searches on Americans have occurred. In a March 28 letter to Wyden, James Clapper, the government's top intelligence official, said the NSA has searched for Americans' communications within information it collected when it targeted foreigners located outside the U.S. In his letter, Clapper also pointed to a declassified document released last August that also acknowledged the use of such searches and stated that these searches were reviewed, and there was no finding of wrongdoing. It was unclear how often these searches are conducted.

Documents disclosed last year by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden showed that the government collects mass amounts of data from major Internet companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook through one of its programs designed to target communications of foreigners located outside the U.S. The government is not allowed to use this authority to collect Americans' communications, but conversations of innocent Americans are collected inadvertently. When this happens, the NSA is required to take certain measures to hide the communications of Americans that have nothing to do with foreign intelligence.

In 2011, the government sought and received approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to search for Americans within the communications it already possessed through its collection of conversations of foreigners outside the U.S. Such searches would only be permissible if there were a foreign intelligence purpose.

Former NSA deputy director Chris Inglis said this authority might be used to search for the target of a terrorist attack. As an example, Inglis said if the government was concerned that terrorists were plotting to attack the New York Stock Exchange, the NSA could search for the term "New York Stock Exchange" among the conversations it collected in its targeting of foreigners overseas.

Wyden, Udall and other civil liberties advocates call this type of search a back-door loophole in the law that governs surveillance of Americans.

"If a government agency thinks that a particular American is engaged in terrorism or espionage, the Fourth Amendment requires that the government secure a warrant or emergency authorization before monitoring his or her communications," Wyden and Udall said.

The Obama administration contends the searches are legal because they are searching information they lawfully obtained.
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