The U.S. intelligence community’s domestic spying efforts have expanded faster than most people realize, the Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman reports this morning.
Despite attempts by Congress to kill rapacious data-gathering programs on U.S. citizens like Total Information Awareness or the FBI’s Carnivore, components of those efforts have lived on, the Journal found.
Now, a network of data-gathering efforts drags in not only phone conversations and emails among U.S. persons, but travel information, credit card activity, bank transfers and more, according to the article.
The National Security Agency has a hand in gathering much of the information, Gorman says. But when its efforts confront stringent legal prohibitions, it can turn elsewhere: the FBI uses its legal authority to obtain the contents of emails from communications companies if the NSA is prohibited from doing so itself.
Indeed, the FBI emerges as a key partner in the effort, acting as a go-between for the NSA to get information from U.S. telecommunications and internet companies, the article relates. Such cooperation, one FBI source told the Journal, has "expanded exponentially."
The NSA operates as something as a clearinghouse, Gorman found. It takes data gathered on people by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Treasury and others, then analyzes it for clues of what it believes could be terrorist activity.
"When [Total Information Awareness] got taken apart, it didn’t get thrown away," one top government official told the paper.