We already knew that the NSA was collecting a lot of data with its many surveillance tools — like, a lot of data. But new details about the agency's role in the CIA's drone program show that they're collecting incredibly detailed data too. Detailed enough to catch a terrorist with a single email.
Citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the Washington Post reported on how the NSA and CIA work in tandem to gather information on suspected terrorists and their whereabouts, information that they later use to plan drone strikes to take out those terrorists. In one instance, a single "innocuous" email to al-Qaeda agent Hassan Ghul from his wife proved deadly. From the Post:
The e-mail from Ghul's wife "about her current living conditions" contained enough detail to confirm the coordinates of that household, according to a document summarizing the mission. "This information enabled a capture/kill operation against an individual believed to be Hassan Ghul on October 1," it said.
Of course, the NSA had other irons in the fire. The WP reports that the agency had also "deployed an arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions." But one single email to confirm! That's either some very sophisticated surveillance or one very detailed email.
It's hard to walk away from the Post's story about the NSA and the CIA's drone program — which is worth reading in full — without wondering if some of these same tools are being used on American soil, either to track suspected terrorists or spy on Americans that may or may not be connected to them. Based on what we know from the Snowden revelations, it seems like they probably are. [Washington Post]