NSA spying chronicles, umpteenth episode: ‘Metadata, schmetadata’

Yes, the legs on the NSA spying story are getting longer. Today’s installment might well be called an extension of metadata, schmetadata.

The New York Times shines a light on  what it calls “largely overlooked” information published a couple of weeks ago by the Guardian based on the leaks by Edward Snowden, the former government tech contractor. The NYT says the government is searching emails and text messages into and out of the United States, especially those that mention foreigners under surveillance. In other words, not just metadata — information about communications such as date, time and participants — but content.

When the news about Prism, the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance program, was first reported, the government responded by saying it collects only metadata from Americans’ phone calls and online communications. (That’s besides flat-out claiming to Congress that the spying agencies don’t collect information about millions of Americans.) But back to the claims about not scooping up content: As we mentioned last month, other reports indicated otherwise. Today’s NYT report just provides more details about how it’s being scooped up.

Civil rights groups obviously have something to say about the new report. From an ACLU statement today: “This is precisely the kind of generalized spying that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit. The government’s scrutiny of virtually every international email sent by Americans will have extraordinary consequences for free expression.”


Photo: National Intelligence Director James Clapper is being criticized for telling the Senate Intelligence Committee in March that the NSA does not collect information about Americans. (Associated Press archives)



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  • steve hammill

    This has been going on since Carnivore.

    On one hand, I don’t have a problem with it if I trust the leadership and have nothing at risk…

    On the other hand, if the leadership isn’t trustworthy and you have something to risk…OH BOY DO YOU HAVE TROUBLES!

    The last time that I thought our government was trustworthy, I was 5 years old. I could begin a real rant, but I’d prefer not to die before my time.