NSA Admits Surveillance Is Much Broader Than Once Thought

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Now this is interesting:

As an aside during testimony on Capitol Hill today, a National Security Agency representative rather casually indicated that the government looks at data from a universe of far, far more people than previously indicated.

Chris Inglis, the agency’s deputy director, was one of several government representatives—including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence—testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government’s surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.

But Inglis’ statement was new. Analysts look “two or three hops” from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed. Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops. This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with—one hop. And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with—two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three. Two hops. And now: A third hop.

So we were initially told that the NSA were looking at the suspected terrorist (A), the person whom that guy communicates with (B), and all the people B communicates with (C) but now we find out that they are also looking at everyone C communicates with.

That’s some pretty big news since studies have shown everyone is connected to someone else by an average of 4.74 hops.

So lets say you’re the suspect and you have 100 friends:

100 ^ 3 = 1,000,000. Even taking your 75% overlap that’s 100 * 25 * (25 * .25) = 15,625 people. Per terrorist.

That’s a massive amount of people that are being swept into the investigation

One senior member of the panel, congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of the 2001 Patriot Act, warned the officials that unless they rein in the scope of their surveillance on Americans’ phone records, “There are not the votes in the House of Representatives” to renew the provision after its 2015 expiration.

“You’re going to lose it entirely,” Sensenbrenner said.

Inglis and deputy attorney general James Cole repeatedly argued that the NSA’s surveillance was limited because it only searches through its databases of phone records when it has a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of a connection to terrorism.

But several members of the committee, of both parties, said they were concerned not merely about the analysis of the phone records but about NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone data in the first place, without an individual suspicion of connections to terrorism.

“The statute says ‘collection’,” congressman Jerrold Nadler told Cole. “You’re trying to confuse us by talking use.”

Congressman Ted Poe, a judge, said: “I hope as we move forward as a Congress we rein in the idea that it’s OK to bruise the spirit of the constitution in the name of national security.”

I fully understand two hops…but three? Not sure I see the need for that.

Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

9 Responses to “NSA Admits Surveillance Is Much Broader Than Once Thought”

  1. 1

    This one

    And after Bush’s Patriot Act, this is a surprise? Given the unfounded hatred for Obama by the goobers and racists in this country you can be sure he is going to do all he can to thwart another 911. It’s all on you, wingnuts.

  2. 2

    Rob in Katy

    Wow, didn’t even wait to reply to someone before calling us all racists… unfortunately that card has been run dry, move along, more along.

  3. 3

    Marla Hughes

    Sorry, but I just can’t get all hot and bothered over the potential of our own government looking at what we freely give away for companies to sell for profit to the highest bidder, including foreign nations. Some of them our declared enemies.
    Caveat Emptor.
    Oh, and btw, it doesn’t matter how many degrees of separation there is between a known Al Qaeda affiliate or member (original suspect) and anyone else NSA finds who is associated with them that is also a potential affiliate or member of Al Qaeda, if they are a US citizen NSA is forbidden to investigate them except under special circumstances. Period.

  4. 7


    Even more disturbing is the depth of potential corruption due to blackmail, coercion and bribery. Our surveillance has expanded to listening posts worldwide and some whistle blowers claim that foreign officials were compromised into agreeing with these expanded practices. For those who resisted these efforts, they were possibly exposed to embarrassing revelations, perhaps even supplying information to more compliant political opponents. The stench arising from such perfidy is not conducive to national security, it damages every freedom loving citizen everywhere. One former NSA official states that former agency head, General Hayden, mentioned that our data processing power would soon enable “total hearing”. When pressed on what was meant by total hearing, the answer was “Everything”!

  5. 8

    Nan G

    Ask the NSA, as part of a freedom of information request, to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees’ email? The agency says it doesn’t have the technology.

    “There’s no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately,” NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker.

    The NSA has 30,000 employees but can only search through emails person-by-person!

    Mark Caramanica of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: “This is an agency that’s charged with monitoring millions of communications globally and they can’t even track their own internal communications in response to a FOIA request.”


  6. 9


    @Nan G: #8
    If the NSA can’t search their own internal emails, then it was programmed that way. Computers are programmed to do what they are commanded to do. They are also programmed to NOT do what they are programmed NOT to do. The obama administration is trying to program the citizens to do what he wants us to do, and NOT to do what he DOESN’T want us to do.

    This is the same guy that told us not to get our information from electronic devices. This is why he doesn’t want us to get info from the Internet. We learn too much about him, and the more we learn, the more we learn that we should fear this administration. Are more people becoming as fearful of this administration as I am?

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