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13 Ways to Know if the Government is Reading Your Email , tutorial

The National Security Agency is the primary cryptographic and signals-intelligence agency of the United States. To spy on foreign communications, it operates data collection platforms in more than 50 countries and uses airplanes and submarines, ships and satellites, specially modified trucks, and cle erly disguised antennas. !t has managed to break the cryptographic systems of most of its targets and prides itself on sending first-rate product to the president of the United States. !nside the United States, the NSA"s collection is regulated by the #oreign !ntelligence Sur eillance Act, passed in $%&' to pro ide a legal frame(ork for intercepting communications related to foreign intelligence or terrorism (here one party is inside the United States and might be considered a )U.S. person.* Three bits of terminology+ The NSA )collects on* someone, (ith the preposition indicating the broad scope of the erb. Think of a rake pushing lea es into a bin. The NSA intercepts a ery small percentage of the communications it collects. At the NSA, to )intercept* is to introduce to the collection process an analyst, (ho e,amines a leaf that has appeared in his or her computer bin. -An analyst could use computer soft(are to assist here, but the basic distinction the NSA makes is that the actual interception re.uires intent and specificity on behalf of the interceptor./ A )U.S. person* refers to a U.S. citi0en, a legal resident of the United States, or a corporation or business legally chartered inside the United States. So the big .uestion e eryone (onders is+ does the NSA read my email1 2ased on the public statements of the former director of the
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National Security Agency, 3ustice 4epartment attorneys, and others in ol ed in NSA operations5as (ell as confidential information pro ided to the authors and erified independently by officials read in to the programs5here is ho( to tell if the NSA spies on you+ 1. !f you regularly call people in Afghanistan, 6akistan, or 7emen, your telephone records ha e probably passed through an NSA computer. 8ost likely, ho(e er, if you" e been calling rug merchants or relati es, no one at the NSA kne( your name. -A computer program saniti0es the actual identifying information./ 4epending on the time, date, location, and conte,tual factors related to the call, a record may not ha e been created. 2. !f you" e sent an e-mail from an !6 address that has been used by bad guys in the past -!6 addresses can be spoofed/, your e-mail"s metadata5the hidden directions that tell the !nternet (here to send it -that is, the To and #rom lines, the sub9ect line, the length, and the type of e-mail/ probably passed through a ser er. The chances of an analyst or a computer actually reading the content of an e-mail are ery slim. 3. !f you are or (ere a la(yer for someone formally accused of terrorism, there is a good chance that the NSA has or had5but could not or cannot access -at least not anymore/5your telephone billing records. -N.2.+ A Senate Select :ommittee on !ntelligence report notes that the #!SA Amendments Act does not re.uire material erroneously collected to be destroyed./ 4. !f you (ork for a member of the )4efense !ndustrial 2ase* on sensiti e pro9ects and your company uses ;eri0on and AT<T, your email has likely been screened by NSA computers for mal(are. . 2efore =00&, if you, as an American citi0en, (orked o erseas in or near a (ar 0one, there is a small chance that you (ere )collected on* by a ci ilian NSA analyst or a member of the NSA"s :entral Security Ser ice -the name gi en to the military ser ice elements

that make up a large part of the NSA"s (orkforce/. !. !f you, from September =00$ to roughly April =00>, called or sent e-mail to or from regions associated (ith terrorism and used American !nternet companies to do so, your transaction records -again, (ithout identifying information/ (ere likely collected by your telecommunications company and passed to the NSA. The records (ere then analy0ed, and there is a tiny chance that a person or a computer read them or sampled them. The NSA (ould ask telecommunications companies for tranches of data that correlated to particular communities of interest, and then used a ariety of classified and unclassified techni.ues to predict, based on their analysis, (ho (as likely to be associated (ith terrorism. This determination re.uired at least one additional and independent e,traneous piece of e idence. ". There is a chance that the NSA passed this data to the #2! for further in estigation. There is a small chance that the #2! acted on this information. #. !f you define )collection* in the broadest sense possible, there is a good chance that if the NSA (anted to obtain your transactional information in real time and kne( your direct identity -or had a rough idea of (ho you are/, they can do so, pro ided that they can pro e to a #!SA 9udge (ithin se enty-t(o hours that there is probable cause to belie e you are a terrorist or associated (ith a terrorist organi0ation. $. !f the NSA recei es permission from a 9udge to collect on a corporation or a charity that may be associated (ith terrorism, and your company, (hich is entirely separate from the organi0ation in .uestion, happens to share a location (ith it -either because you"re in the same building or ha e contracted (ith the company to share !nternet ser ices/, there is a chance that the NSA incidentally

collects your (ork e-mail and phone calls. !t is ery hard for the agency to map !6 addresses to their physical locations and to completely segregate parts of corporate telephone net(orks. ?hen this happens, :ongress and the 3ustice 4epartment are notified, and an NSA internal compliance unit makes a record of the )o ercollect.* 1%. !f any of your communications (ere accidentally or incidentally collected by the NSA, they probably still e,ist some(here, sub9ect to classified minimi0ation re.uirements. -The main NSA signalsintelligence database is code-named 6!N?A@A./ This is the case e en after certain collection acti ities became illegal (ith the passage of the =00& #!SA Amendments Act, the go erning frame(ork for domestic collection. The act does not re.uire the NSA to destroy the data. 11. !f you are of Arab descent and attend a mos.ue (hose imam (as linked through degrees of association (ith !slamic charities considered to be supporters of terrorism, NSA computers probably analy0ed metadata from your telephone communications and e-mail. 12. 7our data might ha e been intercepted or collected by Bussia, :hina, or !srael if you tra eled to those countries. The #2! has .uietly found and remo ed transmitters from se eral ?ashington, 4.:.Carea cell phone to(ers that fed all data to (ire rooms at foreign embassies. 13. The chances, if you are not a criminal or a terrorist, that an analyst at the NSA listened to one of your telephone con ersations or read one of your e-mail messages are infinitesimally small gi en the technological challenges associated (ith the program, not to mention the lack of manpo(er a ailable to sort through your irrele ant communications. !f an unintentional collection occurred -an

o ercollect/, it (ould be deleted and not stored in any database. What safeguards e&ist today' #rom (hat (e could figure out, only three do0en or so people inside the NSA ha e the authority to read the content of #!SA-deri ed material, all of (hich is no( sub9ect to a (arrant. :an the NSA share #!SA product on U.S. persons (ith other countries1 2y la( it cannot and does not. -The #2! can, and does./ ?hat is the si0e of the compliance staff that monitors domestic collection1 #our or fi e people, depending on the budget cycle. Do( many people outside the NSA are pri y to the full details of the program1 8ore than one thousand. Do( can you find out if you" e been accidentally or incidentally sur eilled1 7ou can"t. 7ou can sue, but the go ernment (ill in oke a state secrets pri ilege, and 9udges (ill probably agree 5e en (hen you can pro e (ithout any secret e idence that there is probable cause to belie e that you (ere sur eilled. The NSA"s general counsel"s office regularly re ie(s the )target folders*5the identities of those under sur eillance5to make sure the program complied (ith the instruction to sur eil those reasonably assumed to ha e connections to al-Eaeda. They do this by sampling a number of the folders at random. Do( do (e kno( the program isn"t e,panding right no(, pushing the boundaries of legality, spying not 9ust on suspected terrorists but on American dissidents1 ?e don"t. 2ut if it is, and o er a thousand people are in ol ed, ho( much longer can that secret last1