Guardian Front Page, February 4, 2015


日本での不公平: Japanese 3D-Printed Gun Maker Is Sentenced To Two Years In Jail


[Also see – Japan Makes First Arrest Over 3-D Printer Guns  –]

Yoshitomo Imura, an employee at the Shonan Institute of Technology in Japan, was arrested last may for printing and firing a 3D-printed gun called the ZigZag. He printed three guns in total and was arrested for running afoul of Japan’s strict gun laws.

[More – [VIDEO] How 3-D Printed Guns Evolved Into Serious Weapons in Just One Year  –]

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What’s The Big Deal if Your e-Book is Spying On You?

John Hurt in a film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984

The only book about surveillance you ever need to read… John Hurt in a film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

The Facebook generation isn’t bothered about the data e-readers are collecting – just another victory for market forces

For The Guardian writes:

So some big companies are using technology to improve their services – big deal. Or at least that seems to be the balance of opinion around these parts on the news that while you’re reading your favourite ebook, your favourite ebook is reading you. Of course it’s not strictly speaking news to those of you who follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or indeed the Wall Street Journal, but for those of us who don’t spend our lives cogitating on the details of every End User License Agreement we sign up to, it still comes of something of a shock to realise that – sotto voce – your electronic device is keeping up running commentary on your reading habits.

Maybe you’ve already followed dickcheeseman’s advice and sprung your Kindle out of Amazon’s embrace or maybe, as R042 suggests, you’ve cut your e-reader off from its natural habitat and foresworn WiFi, but even if like Commontata you “couldn’t care less” what any business has on you, the default collection of user data is another signal that electronic devices shift reading into something a little more commercial. Read the rest of this entry »

[VIDEO] The Day The Guardian Destroyed Snowden Hard Drives, Observed by GCHQ

Jokingly referred to as the “Secret Ceremony”

gchq-logoOn Saturday 20 July 2013, in the basement of the Guardian’s office in Kings Cross, London, watched by two GCHQ technicians, Guardian editors destroyed hard drives and memory cards on which encrypted files leaked by Edward Snowden had been stored. This is the first time footage of the event has been released.


Read the story of how the hard drives were destroyed

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Google’s Eric Schmidt Wants a Ban on Amazon’s Drones


 writes: “How would you feel,” Google chairman Eric Schmidt asked in the Guardian last April, “if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”

Good question. Especially after Jeff Bezos‘ announcement on 60 Minutes Sunday that Amazon plans to build and deploy across the U.S. a fleet of artificially intelligent delivery drones.

How would I feel about a drone that could snoop on me? Probably the same way I’d feel about a company that monitored all my online activities — the e-mail I send and receive, the websites I visit, the places I visit, the products I buy, the YouTubes I watch, etc. etc. — and sold that information to advertisers.

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Would you like fries with that? U.S. shares raw intelligence data with Israel, leaked document shows

The latest document leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden says the U.S. regularly hands over to Israel intercepted communications that have not first been reviewed by U.S. analysts. (Guardian / September 12, 2013)

(Guardian / September 12, 2013)

WASHINGTON — Ken Dilanian writes: The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel that probably includes sensitive information about Americans, according to the latest top-secret document leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The 2009 document, a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, says the U.S. government regularly hands over intercepted communications that have not first been reviewed by U.S. analysts and therefore may contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. Read the rest of this entry »

NSA Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Reportedly Detained at Airport for 9 Hours, Questioned Under Terrorism Act

Authorities in London on Sunday reportedly detained and questioned for nine hours the gay partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has authored a series of recent articles exposing mass surveillance programs by the National Surveillance Agency (NSA).

The Guardian, Greenwald’s employer, reports the journalist’s partner, David Miranda, was held for nearly nine hours and questioned under the Terrorism Act at the UK’s Heathrow airport. Officials also confiscated Miranda’s electronics, including his cell phone, laptop, camera, and memory sticks, according to The Guardian, without saying when they would return the items.

Glenn Greenwald

FILE — Journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 14, 2013. (AP)

According to the report, Miranda was stopped by UK airport officials at 8:30 AM and told he would be detained for questioning under schedule seven of the Terrorism Act of 2000. The law, reportedly allows officers to search and detain individuals at key transportation areas.

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Snowden: NSA targeted journalists critical of government after 9/11

Snowden: NSA targeted journalists critical of government after 9/11

By Jonathan Easley

Leaker Edward Snowden accused the National Security Agency of targeting reporters who wrote critically about the government after the 9/11 attacks and warned it was “unforgivably reckless” for journalists to use unencrypted email messages when discussing sensitive matters.

Snowden said in an interview with the New York Times Magazine published Tuesday that he came to trust Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who, along with Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, helped report his disclosure of secret surveillance programs, because she herself had been targeted by the NSA.

“Laura and [Guardian reporter] Glenn [Greenwald] are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures,” Snowden said for the article, a profile of Poitras.

Snowden didn’t detail how Poitras was targeted by the NSA surveillance programs he disclosed, but suggested the agency tracked her emails and cautioned other journalists that they could be under surveillance.

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Polls show Obamas real worry: NSA leaks erode trust in government

With the NSA revelations doubling down on the IRS and AP scandals, the president’s approval rating is hitting new lows


Barack Obama nsa

Obama said Friday privacy concerns also related to private corporations, which he said collect more data than the federal government. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Thursday, the Guardian released a poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday nights by Public Policy Polling looking at America’s reaction to the National Security Agency (NSA) controversy. The public appears to be reacting negatively to the revelations – and it seems to be hurting President Obama.

We found 50% of American voters believe the NSA should not be collecting telephone or internet records, compared to the 44% who think they should. The results hold even when respondents were told that the data the government is collecting is “metadata” (and not necessarily actual content of communications).

These results are consistent with a CBS News pollFox News poll, and YouGov surveythat showed only 38%, 32%, and 35% of Americans respectively approved of phone record collection in order to reduce the chance of a terrorist attack. A Gallup poll was consistent with these, showing only 37% approved monitoring of Americans’ phone and internet use.

The results conflict with a Pew Research/Washington Post survey, which showed 56% of Americans found the NSA’s tracking of phone records to be acceptable. Why the difference?

As Mark Blumenthal pointed out Wednesday, the difference could well have to do with the Pew Research/Washington Post poll pointing out that the government had a “court order”. A court order would, to most, probably imply something less sinister; other pollsters had not made this distinction.

That said, the Guardian survey confirms the Pew survey in another important way. Nate Cohn recognized Wednesday that only 45% of Americans approved of the government monitoring of Americans’ emails and computer information. The Guardian survey discovered a very similar 41% of Americans who feel this way.

It’s fair to say the majority of Americans are, at the very least, unhappy with one or more aspects of the NSA data-mining revelations. The question is, though, whether or not President Obama will suffer political fallout from the leaks. The answer seems to be that he very well may.

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EVEN BAMBI ISN’T SAFE! Snowden: Hey, I could have wiretapped anyone’s e-mails, including the president’s personal account

Snowden: I could have wiretapped anyone’s e-mails, including the president’s personal account « Hot Air

Snowden suggests he could have accessed the president’s personal e-mails. Is that crazy? I hope so. I don’t know. via  Hot Air

He says he was granted broad “wiretapping” authorities. In a video interview with The Guardian, Snowden claims to have had incredibly broad authority to wiretap Americans, saying “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal e-mail.”

He also told WaPo reporter Bart Gellman that national intelligence wouldn’t stop at killing a reporter in the name of protecting especially sensitive information. Is that crazy? I hope so. Ithink so, simply because reporters who break big national-security stories aren’t known to disappear or meet with accidents. But I don’t know.

“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end,” [Snowden] wrote in early May, before we had our first direct contact. He warned that even journalists who pursued his story were at risk until they published.

The U.S. intelligence community, he wrote, “will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.”

On the one hand, that sounds like a Ron Paul fan muttering under his breath. On the other hand, this guy’s scoop about PRISM has in fact been borne out as other government sources have confirmed the program’s existence. It’s hard to sneer at someone for being paranoid after he’s just exposed massive data-mining of Americans’ electronic communications. The one question to which I keep returning is how Snowden could have gotten hold of all this information. Could he really have done it all himself given his place in the natsec food chain? CIA officials are confused too:

For instance, Snowden said he did not have a high school diploma. One former CIA official said that it was extremely unusual for the agency to have hired someone with such thin academic credentials, particularly for a technical job, and that the terms Snowden used to describe his agency positions did not match internal job descriptions.

Snowden’s claim to have been placed under diplomatic cover for a position in Switzerland after an apparently brief stint at the CIA as a systems administrator also raised suspicion. “I just have never heard of anyone being hired with so little academic credentials,” the former CIA official said. The agency does employ technical specialists in overseas stations, the former official said, “but their breadth of experience is huge, and they tend not to start out as systems administrators.”

A former senior U.S. intelligence official cited other puzzling aspects of Snowden’s account, questioning why a contractor for Booz Allen at an NSA facility in Hawaii would have access to something as sensitive as a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“I don’t know why he would have had access to those . . . orders out in Hawaii,” the former official said.

Snowden: I could have wiretapped anyone’s e-mails, including the president’s personal account « Hot Air

Could this guy really have done it all himself or did he have an accomplice further up the chain who wanted this to come out but wasn’t prepared to suffer for the disclosure? Snowden is a perfect leaker: He’s young and idealistic, which makes him more sympathetic to the public, and he’s unmarried and without children, so he has less to lose than someone older with more family obligations might. He may have agreed to take the fall in the name of exposing a government program to which he objected, and his accomplice may have agreed to provide him with the documents in return. (If you think it’s unlikely that a veteran analyst might suffer a crisis of conscience, meet William Binney.) I take it right now the FBI’s sifting through Snowden’s communications over the past year or so with NSA officials to see if he had any unusual recurring communications with anyone higher up. Or maybe I’m talking straight out of my ass and Snowden really did pull this off himself. That was my point up top — as a layman, there’s simply no way to know what’s likely or unlikely. Most conspiracy theorists latch on to outlandish explanations because, deep down, the conspiracy makes them feel better than the reality. I’m doing that too here. I’d rather believe Snowden was working with someone than that one rogue midlevel IT operative could tap the president’s secret GMail account or break open the inner sanctum of U.S. national security. We’ll see.

Exit question one: A guy with access to one of the NSA’s most sensitive tools tells them he needs a few weeks off to get treatment for his epilepsy, then hops a plane to Hong Kong(!) — and no one at the agency suspects anything until it’s too late? A point oft-repeated on Twitter yesterday after he outed himself is that the fact that he was able to pull this off at all kinda sorta explodes the NSA’s rationale for massive data-mining in the first place. Exit question two: Can we safely assume that, if we’re bugging more or less the entire Internet, we’re not in fact at China’s mercy when it comes to cyberespionage? Every week brings a new story about Beijing rifling through American businesses’ records; last week came news that the Obama and McCain campaigns were hacked by China in 2008. Why are they able to do that if the feds are so far ahead technologically that they can track a person’s movements virtually moment to moment from their data footprint? I realize the technology in data mining and hacker defense is different, but it’s weird to think the feds have all but mastered the former and yet trail in the latter to an almost catastrophic degree.


 via  Hot Air

Will Hong Kong Extradite Snowden?


The 29-year-old revealed large-scale surveillance of Internet user data by the National Security Agency, in a program known as PRISM, during an interview with the Guardiannewspaper — and has been holed-up in a comfortable hotel in the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong for the past three weeks. The city undoubtedly has the “strong tradition of free speech” that Snowden asserts, but with its autonomy being gradually eroded, Hong Kong is hardly the most obvious beacon of freedom. Even if it were, there must be major doubt that Beijing would approve of the Hong Kong authorities offering Snowden a safe haven. It may frequently spar with Washington on a range of issues, but China has little to gain in blocking attempts to extradite a man swiftly soaring to the top of its rival superpower’s “most wanted” list.

Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, landed in Hong Kong on May 20. He subsequently revealed reams of classified information on the controversial and classified PRISM program, garnered from a government office in Hawaii. The revelations came just as new Chinese President Xi Jinping met Barack Obama for the first time over the weekend. The treatment of former intelligence officer Bradley Manning, kept in solitary confinement for much of his three years’ detention before finally coming to trial last week, as well as the ongoing pursuit of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, indicate that the White House is unlikely to go easy on attempts to bring Snowden back to U.S. soil.

Republicans have already called for his speedy repatriation to answer various charges, which could include treason and (à la Manning) aiding the enemy. Hong Kong and the U.S. maintain a bilateral extradition treaty signed in 1997. There are special exceptions for political crimes, but human-rights activists point to past extraditions from the territory apparently driven by pressure from Washington, most notoriously that of Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, who in 2004 was placed upon a secret rendition flight from Hong Kong to Tripoli, allegedly planned and executed by the U.K., U.S. and Libyan governments. (He is currently taking legal action after being tortured by the Gaddafi regime.) Some commentaries, like one written by James Fallows in the Atlantic, paint Hong Kong as a political cipher, acting at the beck and call of Beijing’s communist administration as well as obliging Western powers.

However, local experts emphasize Hong Kong’s legal independence. Professor Simon Young, director of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law, says he “doesn’t see any chance” that Beijing could assume jurisdiction of any proceedings relevant to the Snowden case. “Although Hong Kong is not bound by the Refugee Convention, a recent decision from our Court of Final Appeal held that the Hong Kong government must independently assess whether an individual’s refugee claim is well founded,” he tells TIME. In other words, all persons landing in Hong Kong with a bona fide claim to refugee status will not be returned to a place where they may be persecuted.

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Edward Snowden: I mistakenly believed…

…in Tiny Blue Fairies Magic Beans Unicorns Hope and Change Bambi Peter Pan Obama’s Promises

Edward Snowden, the self-revealed whistle-blower at the National Security Agency, explains that part of the reason he decided to come forward was because President Obama did not roll back the surveillance measures put into place by the Bush Administration.

“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party,” Snowden said in an interview with the Guardian. “But I believed in Obama’s promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor.”

Snowden acknowledged that he watched Obama struggle as he attempted to justify the surveillance programs during his press conference on Friday.

“My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself,” Snowden said about Obama. “He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it.”

Snowden referred to a “grassroots movement” planning to take to the streets on July 4 in defense of the Fourth Amendment. The movement is called “Restore The Fourth Amendment,” and grew out of the Reddit community.

“I have been surprised and pleased to see the public has reacted so strongly in defence of these rights that are being suppressed in the name of security,” Snowden said in the interview.


Meet Edward Snowden: the whistleblower

Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

 and  in Hong Kong


The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

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Government likely to open criminal probe into NSA leaks

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s administration is likely to open a criminal investigation into the leaking of highly classified documents that revealed the secret surveillance of Americans’ telephone and email traffic, U.S. officials said on Friday.

The law enforcement and security officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said the agencies that normally conduct such investigations, including the FBI and Justice Department, were expecting a probe into the leaks to a British and an American newspaper.

Such investigations typically begin after an agency that believes its secrets have been leaked without authorization files a complaint with the Justice Department.

It was unclear on Friday whether a complaint had been submitted by the publicity-shy National Security Agency, which was most directly involved in the collection of trillions of telephone and email communications.

However, one U.S. official with knowledge of the situation said that given the extent and sensitivity of the recent leaks, federal law may compel officials to open an investigation.

A criminal probe would represent another turn in the Obama administration’s battle against national security leaks. This effort has been under scrutiny lately because of a Justice Department investigation that has involved searches of the phone records of Associated Press journalists and a Fox News reporter.

Leaks to media outlets this week have revealed a government campaign of domestic surveillance going far beyond anything that had been acknowledged previously.

Late on Wednesday, Britain’s Guardian newspaper published what U.S. officials later acknowledged was an order, approved by the secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requiring a subsidiary of Verizon Communications to give the NSA raw data showing phone calls made from numbers within the United States and from U.S. numbers to those overseas.

The data did not include the identities of people who made the calls or the contents of the calls.

On Thursday, the Guardian and the Washington Post published slides from a secret NSA powerpoint presentation that described how the agency gathered masses of email data from prominent Internet firms, including Google, Facebook and Apple under a Top-Secret program called PRISM.

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Glen Greenwald Strikes Again

Boundless Informant: the NSAs secret tool to track global surveillance data

Revealed: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing data – including figures on US collection

Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Note the ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.

Boundless Informant: mission outlined in four slides
Read the NSA’s frequently asked questions document

The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications.

The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.

The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, “What type of coverage do we have on country X” in “near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure.”

An NSA factsheet about the program, acquired by the Guardian, says: “The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country.”

Under the heading “Sample use cases”, the factsheet also states the tool shows information including: “How many records (and what type) are collected against a particular country.”

A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA “global heat map” seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.

The heat map reveals how much data is being collected from around the world. Note the ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.
Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.

The heatmap gives each nation a color code based on how extensively it is subjected to NSA surveillance. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance).

The disclosure of the internal Boundless Informant system comes amid a struggle between the NSA and its overseers in the Senate over whether it can track the intelligence it collects on American communications. The NSA’s position is that it is not technologically feasible to do so.

At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” replied Clapper.

Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”

Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.

IP address is not a perfect proxy for someone’s physical location but it is rather close, said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist with the Speech Privacy and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If you don’t take steps to hide it, the IP address provided by your internet provider will certainly tell you what country, state and, typically, city you are in,” Soghoian said.

That approximation has implications for the ongoing oversight battle between the intelligence agencies and Congress.

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Revealed: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

 Read the court order in full herePhone records data

Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

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