The U.S. National Security Agency is harvesting Americans' email and instant messaging contact lists en masse, according to a new leak from Edward Snowden given to The Washington Post.
While it is not clear how many contact lists the NSA has gotten ahold of, the Post reported that "a sizable fraction" of the Internet's email and instant messaging accounts have been subjected to such scrutiny. Information of this kind would allow the spy agency to create detailed relationship maps, linking individuals by how frequently they communicate.
Reporters Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani add:
During a single day last year, the NSA's Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year. Each day, the presentation said, the NSA collects contacts from an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the inbox displays of Web-based e-mail accounts.
The revelation appears to contradict President Barack Obama's insistence in June that the NSA's email collection program does not apply to U.S. citizens.
Word of the contact harvesting initiative comes on the same day that Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, the first to report on the Snowden leaks, told an audience at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Rio de Janeiro that the biggest revelations have yet to come.
This video is from CNN, aired Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, snipped by MoxNews.
This video is from The Washington Post, published June 7, 2013.