With his fourth scoop (however broadly defined) in as many days, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald reports along with Ewan MacAskill on a third NSA program. Meet “Boundless Informant”:
The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.
The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, “What type of coverage do we have on country X” in “near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure.”
Greenwald and company believe this contradicts the claim that the agency is unable to keep track of all of the data it is gathering, and thereby report how many data have been gathered about American citizens. As spokeswoman Judith Emmel told The Guardian, “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”
On Twitter, Cato Institute expert Julian Sanchez expressed initial skepticism that the 3 billion figure for call records is high enough. His reaction illustrates that at this juncture, revelations about the NSA continue to elicit more questions than answers.