The New York Times announced today that, contrary to earlier assurances from the executive branch, the NSA is looking at the contents of large numbers of Americans’ emails. Don’t worry, though: they’re only looking at emails and text messages that originate or are received overseas, and they’re only searching for information related to specific targets. The word “target” appears in an alarming number of reassurances about this program. While we’re trusting implicitly the institutional structures of America, there’s also this paragraph from the Times report:
Hints of the surveillance appeared in a set of rules, leaked by Mr. Snowden, for how the N.S.A. may carry out the 2008 FISA law. One paragraph mentions that the agency “seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target.” The pages were posted online by the newspaper The Guardian on June 20, but the telltale paragraph, the only rule marked “Top Secret” amid 18 pages of restrictions, went largely overlooked amid other disclosures.
Which is understandable, because why would journalists notice the one marked “Top Secret?”