NSA Collecting Millions of Untargeted Texts a Day, and More

Adding a little more fuel to President Obama’s growing fire around the National Security Agency (NSA) spying on American citizens, the Britain-based Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News, in collaboration, published another pile of once-confidential information on NSA’s routine surveillance habits. Of course, what’s been learned in the past year about NSA spying should leave no one surprised to only learn more.


In addition to the NSA spying, which isn’t alone, is the NSA’s sister in Europe, particularly the UK’s Government Communications Headquarter (GCHQ). Simply put, both agencies have shared a mutual interest in watching the entire world. More NSA secrets were published just hours before President Obama gave his speech on NSA reform, adding some salt to the deepening wound for those loyal to the surveillance state.


Coming out of the Guardian and Channel 4 News are documents revealing the GCHQ and NSA’s program, which are working to consolidate and collect SMS messages. Leaked in last week’s documents is the realization that both agencies collect about 200 million SMS text messages a day, along with other phone data. Capable of pulling hundreds of millions of text messages, the NSA and GCHQ also extracts finance and contact data.


From location data to your contact list, the agencies have compromised the entirety of your phone’s information. Program tools involved with the collection of cell phone data include “Dishfire” and “Prefer”. Dishfire works to log the information into the agency’s database, while Prefer performs “automated analysis”, and all of the collection is done at random with no targeting of specific persons or data – making anyone vulnerable.


Journalist at the Guardian’s NYC-branch, James Ball said, “The Prefer program uses automated text messages such as missed call alerts or texts sent with international roaming charges to extract information, which the agency describes as content derived metadata, and explains that ‘such gems are not in current metadata stores and would enhance current analytics,’” better explaining the NSA/GCHQ process.


On an average day, the two surveillance programs collect over 5 million missed-alert calls, details on 1.6 million border crossings, more than 110,000 names from electronic business cards, 800,000 financial transactions and 76,000 geological locations from text message data.


Just hours after the latest release of surveillance secrets, President Obama took to the stage for a deliverance of reassurance, telling listeners that what Snowden has released will be changed, in terms of bulk data collection. Of course, getting high hopes for policy change from the same man, who in 2007 told Americans that unwarranted surveillance shouldn’t be a reality in the US, is loose-ended.