Who ever could have guessed that an NSA analyst would look at someone's personal emails for their own purposes? (And of course, how certain are we that they weren't working for someone else?) I guess we should assume that there's an audience for anything we say or do!
A secret NSA surveillance database containing millions of intercepted foreign and domestic e-mails includes the personal correspondence of former President Bill Clinton, according to the New York Times.
An NSA intelligence analyst was apparently investigated after accessing Clinton’s personal correspondence in the database, the paper reports, though it didn’t say how many of Clinton’s e-mails were captured or when the interception occurred.
The database, codenamed Pinwale, allows NSA analysts to search through and read large volumes of e-mail messages, including correspondence to and from Americans. Pinwale is likely the end point for data sucked from internet backbones into NSA-run surveillance rooms at AT&T facilities around the country.
Those rooms were set up by the Bush administration following 9/11, and were finally legalized last year when Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act. The law gives the telecoms immunity for cooperating with the administration; it also opens the way for the NSA to lawfully spy on large groups of phone numbers and e-mail addresses in bulk, instead of having to obtain a warrant for each target.
The NSA can collect the correspondence of Americans with a court order, or without one if the interception occurs incidentally while the agency is targeting people “reasonably believed” to be overseas. But in 2005, the agency “routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants,” according to the Times, through this loophole. The paper reports today that the NSA is continuing to over-collect e-mail because of difficulties in filtering and distinguishing between foreign and domestic correspondence.
If an American’s correspondence pops up in search results when analysts sift through the database, the analyst is allowed to read it, provided such messages account for no more than 30 percent of a search result, the paper reported.
The NSA has claimed that the over-collection was inadvertent and corrected it each time the problem was discovered. But Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, disputed this. “Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” he told the Times.