In a rare public disclosure, the US agency behind the recent PRISM web-spying scandal has released documents that show it only has access of 1.6% of global internet traffic.
The National Security Agency made the claims in a rare, publicly-released document defending its surveillance programs.
In the seven-page document, the NSA denies claims that is has used foreign partners to circumvent U.S. laws.
The document, titled ‘The National Security Agency: Missions, Authorities, Oversight and Partnerships,’ compares the amount of Internet data that the NSA collects to the size of a dime on a basketball court.
‘According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6% of that,’ the agency states. ‘However, of the 1.6% of the data, only 0.025% is actually selected for review.
The net effect is that NSA analysts look at 0.00004% of the world’s traffic in conducting their mission – that’s less than one part in a million.
‘Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA’s total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court.’
The NSA denies claims that is has used foreign partners to get around U.S. laws.
‘NSA partners with well over 30 different nations in order to conduct its foreign intelligence mission,’ the agency states. ‘In every case, NSA does not and will not use a relationship with a foreign intelligence service to ask that service to do what NSA is itself prohibited by law from doing.
‘These partnerships are an important part of the US and allied defense against terrorists, cyber threat actors, and others who threaten our individual and collective security. Both parties to these relationships benefit.’
The document has no attribution or contact information. It is dated August 9, 2013 and was released on the same day that President Obama held a news conference about possible surveillance reforms.
In defense of its Internet-monitoring program, the NSA writes that the program was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when the NSA ‘did not have the tools or the database to search to identify [terorrist] connections and share them with the FBI.’
The paper concludes by stating that NSA personnel must report when they suspect the agency is overreaching or not acting within the law.
‘This self-reporting is part of the culture and fabric of NSA,’ the document reads. ‘We do not need to sacrifice civil liberties for the sake of national security; both are integral to who we are as Americans. NSA can and will continue to conduct its operations in a manner that respects both.’
The document was released just hours after Obama defended the U.S. government’s intelligence-gathering policies and outlined initiatives to assuage concerns among Americans and foreigners regarding the legality of U.S. surveillance activities.
The president’s remarks came on the same day the UK newspaper The Guardian, via a top-secret document that came from former National Security Agency system administrator Edward Snowden, confirmed prior reports that the U.S. government had created a secret backdoor, under a legal authority, that allows it to search for e-mails and phone calls of U.S. citizens without a warrant.