The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers.
Of these 160,000 intercepted messages, only 10% were official targets. The Post added:
Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.
If Snowden's sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested. In a June 26 "transparency report," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year's collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden's sample, the office's figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.
These revelations come on the heels of news that NSA "deep packet inspection" rules target people who search for articles about Tails and those who use Tor. The agency also allegedly considers the Linux Journal to be an "extremist forum;" its readers get flagged for extra surveillance. The government's ever-changing "you might be a terrorist if" lists are part of the reason it's so dangerous to have our communications collected and stored. Something that is not "suspicious" or illegal today might well be flagged as such in the future.
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