Just a few days after it was revealed the National Security Agency was reportedly tracking social network ties, yet another report detailing a secret program for collecting and storing data of users' online movements has been revealed.
The National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md. (AP)
The Guardian reported that top-secret documents show the agency stored data on even non-targets, contradicting statements by Obama administration officials who've said the NSA only keeps information on subjects of interest.
The new program detailed by the Guardian is called Marina. This project collects computer metadata, while phone metadata is stored in a different system, according to the newspaper that began publishing information leaked by admitted whistleblower Edward Snowden about the NSA's classified programs in June.
"The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target," a guide obtained by the Guardian stated. "This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development."
"Of the more distinguishing features, Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection," it stated.
It's that last bit that's getting the most attention.
While the NSA is likely storing the information to sift through after people have become targets, there are vast amounts of data on people who will never be a target.
As Gizmodo's Adam Clark Estes wrote, "thanks to Marina's year-long memory, the spies can just sit back and wait for a reason to rifle through random people's Internet data."
The Guardian contacted the NSA about this program and its collection of metadata. It received this response (emphasis added):
"NSA is a foreign intelligence agency," the statement said. "NSA's foreign intelligence activities are conducted pursuant to procedures approved by the US attorney general and the secretary of defense, and, where applicable, the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court, to protect the privacy interests of Americans.
"These interests must be addressed in the collection, retention, and dissemination of any information. Moreover, all queries of lawfully collected data must be conducted for a foreign intelligence purpose."
It continued: "We know there is a false perception out there that NSA listens to the phone calls and reads the email of everyday Americans, aiming to unlawfully monitor or profile US citizens. It's just not the case.
"NSA's activities are directed against foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements from US leaders in order to protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
Read the Guardian's full report on this latest revelation about NSA data storage.