Mark Rumold breaks down yesterday’s revelations about NSA’s acquisition of U.S. citizens’ e-mails even when they are on U.S. soil and are not, themselves, the target of any NSA surveillance or even communication with a target:
Once a target is established, the NSA believes it can expand the sweep of its interception far more broadly than the communications of the particular, identified target. Notably, the NSA’sprocedures state (emphasis added):
[I]n those cases where NSA seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target, NSA will either employ an Internet Protocol filter to ensure that the person from whom it seeks to obtain foreign intelligence information is located overseas, or it will target Internet links that terminate in a foreign country.
In plain English: the NSA believes it not only can (1) intercept the communications of the target, but also (2) intercept communications about a target, even if the target isn’t a party to the communication. The most likely way to assess if a communication is “about” a target is to conduct a content analysis of communications, probably based on specific search terms or selectors.
And that, folks, is what we call a content dragnet.
Read more on EFF.