Now these mountains of data are pretty useless without a system for screening and selecting the data.
This system is called Xkeyscore.
According to NSA this system can (or can't):
NSA said there is no "unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA's analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks." The NSA also states that there are "stringent oversight and compliance mechanisms built in at several levels. One feature is the system's ability to limit what an analyst can do with a tool, based on the source of the collection and each analyst's defined responsibilities."
The agency defended the program, stressing that it was only used to legally obtain information about "legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests. [...] XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA's lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system. [...] These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully -- to defend the nation and to protect U.S. and allied troops abroad."
There is a lot of "lawfulness" and great protection instinct there.
It is stressed how the system differences the access, but there is no denial of what the system actually can do and thus present to those with access - which seems to be a lot.
According to Snowden and Greenwall the system can:
On January 26, 2014, the German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk asked Edward Snowden in its TV interview: "What could you do if you would use XKeyscore?" and he answered:
"You could read anyone’s email in the world, anybody you’ve got an email address for. Any website: You can watch traffic to and from it. Any computer that an individual sits at: You can watch it. Any laptop that you’re tracking: you can follow it as it moves from place to place throughout the world. It’s a one-stop-shop for access to the NSA’s information."
“…You can tag individuals… Let’s say you work at a major German corporation and I want access to that network, I can track your username on a website on a form somewhere, I can track your real name, I can track associations with your friends and I can build what’s called a fingerprint, which is network activity unique to you, which means anywhere you go in the world, anywhere you try to sort of hide your online presence, your identity.”
According to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA analysts can via systems like XKeyscore "listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. And it's all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst."
He added that the NSA's databank of collected communications allows its analysts to listen "to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you've entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future".
What is a bit surprising here is that this system has been made available to the German BND and used by them since 2007.
The difference between the Germans and the US is that the US have gathered more data to analyze - and today the EU Data retention is not allowed anywhere in the EU - so there is not that much to analyze for Xkeyscore.
On the other hand the Americans might have reason to feel a bit annoyed with the German outcry regarding their surveillance - since they did it themselves.
Here is an overview of the Global surveillance program that no citizen of any of those countries have ever sanctioned (by election) or even were informed about.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_sur ... %93present)
To many's surprise Germany was one of the most targeted countries:
It certainly was a surprise to the Germans.
What really is bothering is that our governments feel entitled to gather and analyze every part of our lives - without asking us.
Every attempt to encrypt private data is almost regarded as an hostile action by our governments.
It must be possible to fight terror without sacrificing our freedom - or else - what is the point?