Half-a-trillion Internet metadata records were processed in 2012 by one NSA surveillance program alone, The Guardian reported Thursday.
The five-year program, codenamed ShellTrumpet, collected its “one trillionth metadata record” on December 31, 2012. Half of that amount was processed in just 2012 alone.
The metadata — which included email addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers and the duration of calls — allow intelligence analysts to learn a great deal about a target, including his or her’s physical location, without even knowing the content of the communications.
Bulk collection of American’s email and phone records under a NSA program that began in October 2001. The program, known as “Stellar Wind,” was authorized to monitor foreign targets’ communications inside of the U.S.
The program was canceled in 2011, ODNI spokesperson Shawn Turner told The Guardian, but evidence from the NSA documents provided by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden suggest that the agency had developed more powerful surveillance tool, including ShellTrumpet.
“Its not clear how much of this collection concerns foreigners’ online records and how much concerns those of Americans. Also unclear is the claimed legal authority for this collection,” reported The Guardian.
ShellTrumpet’s “processing capabilities for performance monitoring,” the publication noted, has been used by “numerous other systems from across the Agency” for tasks such as “direct email tip alerting.”
ShellTrumpet is only one of several NSA programs revealed by Snowden.
The agency is also due to bring online two more programs in September — MoonlightPath and Spinneret — as part of a “joint surveillance collection operation with an unnamed partner agency” that began last fall.
The information revealed in the latest series of reports by The Guardian is consistent with transparency reports from Google and the ACLU, which shows massive increases in phone and Internet surveillance under the first term of the Obama administration.