The Spectacle Blog

NSA Can Search Emails — Except Its Own

By on 7.24.13 | 3:46PM

Josh Peterson at The Daily Caller points to an “awkward” ProPublica report that the NSA is having trouble fulfilling a freedom of information act (FOIA) request because it cannot easily search an internal email system that is “a little antiquated and archaic.”

This is ironic, even if the agency is as large as the CIA and FBI combined. The NSA sweeps up metadata from every phone in the United States. As James Bamford reported last year in Wired, it has a massive new data center in Utah specifically designed to store everything it collects for easy access. Central archiving also lends itself to data mining, computerized searches for meaningful patterns.

It appears the NSA can much more easily search target emails than its own. It accidentally collects the emails of many Americans, so that could include yours.

Bamford’s article also said that the NSA has been tacitly involved in recent projects to develop world-beating supercomputers, creating its own, souped-up versions of the fastest publicly known machines. The current “exascale computing” initiative would mark a milestone of raw power that would allow the NSA to crack current encryption protocols. Once that happens, the agency will be able to read virtually anything it collects. It already controls the world’s most powerful supercomputers, but still cannot wrangle its employees’ emails. Farce that this is, one wonders about the unknown tragedy of history that came before.

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