Visual Encyclopedia

National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense, under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence. The NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, specializing in a discipline known as signals intelligence (SIGINT). The NSA is also tasked with the protection of U.S. communications networks and information systems.

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“The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and email in their databases. What these programs are are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things: it searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered; and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or connected to that IP address do in the future. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst.”

Contributed by Kelssi Williams

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