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Report: Snowden says NSA can tap e-mail, Facebook chats

Jul. 31, 2013 - 01:08PM   |  
Edward Snowden
Documents provided by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden detail a top-secret program that purportedly allows analysts to search, without prior authorization, large databases of e-mails, online chats and people's individual browsing histories, The Guardian reports. (Tatyana Lokshina / AP)
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Edward Snowden’s father thankful to Putin

The father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden told Russian television that he is grateful to President Vladimir Putin and his government for protecting his son.
Speaking to the state-owned Rossiya 24 channel in footage broadcast Wednesday, Lon Snowden of Allentown, Pennsylvania, thanked the Kremlin for the “courage” shown in keeping his son safe.
Addressing his son, Lon Snowden said that “your family is well and we love you.” He added that “I hope to see you soon, but most of all I want you to be safe.”
The younger Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23. Russia is considering his request for temporary asylum, which he submitted on July 16. — AP

MOSCOW — Documents provided by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden detail a top-secret program that purportedly allows analysts to search, without prior authorization, large databases of e-mails, online chats and people’s individual browsing histories, The Guardian reports.

The British newspaper, which broke the original story of Snowden’s leaks, reports Wednesday that the former defense contractor provided training materials on a program called XKeyscore, described as the NSA’s ‘widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the Internet.

The newspaper says the materials shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements that, from his desk, he could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or event the president, if I had a personal e-mail.”

Snowden, 30, says he was authorized to use XKeyscore while working as a Booz Allen contractor for the NSA.

Snowden, who initially fled to Hong Kong and then Russia on June 23 after leaking NSA documents to The Guardian and other reporters, is believed to still be in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport awaiting a response to his application for political asylum to remain in Russia.

He has also been offered political asylum by three Latin American countries, but has been unable to travel there since the U.S. revoked his passport and charged him with violating the Espionage Act.

The Guardian says Snowden’s latest revelations, which were provided in June but not published until now, explains how NSA analysts can purportedly use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s Internet activity.

“One training slide illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst’s ability to query the databases at any time,” the newspaper reports.

“The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of e-mails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known e-mail account (a “selector” in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted,” the newspaper says. “Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the Internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.”

The NSA training documents released by Snowden assert that by 2008, some 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.

One top-secret document, the newspaper reports, describes how the program “searches within bodies of e-mails, webpages and documents,” including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines” and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites.”

To search for e-mails, an analyst using the XKeyscore system enters an person’s e-mail address in a simple online search form, along with the “justification” for the search and the time period for which the e-mails are sought.

The Guardian says another NSA tool, called “DNI Presenter,” can be used to read the content of stored e-mails, as well as the content of Facebook chats or private messages.

It says an analyst can monitor such chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.

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