On Friday, President Obama addressed the nation regarding both the scandal surrounding the top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden to various press outlets and the revelations those leaks uncovered. However, shortly before the presidential address, The Guardian published a new revelation from those self-same documents provided by Snowden. While it has been known for some time that the NSA collects data on phone calls and computer transmissions, these latest revelations suggest that they collect “almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe.”
Agents at the NSA will then mine that data for all the information it can, calling it “A Goldmine to Exploit” in a presentation on the subject. They are able to mine the phone for geolocation data, records of financial transactions, and information about phone contacts. The NSA was also able to read the text messages and used that information to discern when and where meetings were taking place.
The President has finally responded to global criticism and agreed to limit the activities of the NSA. Before they can access the “vast storehouse of telephone data,” the agency will have to obtain court permission (although it is a “secret” court). The President also promised to restrict how wide a net the NSA can cast when collecting data, and promised “to sharply restrict eavesdropping on the leaders of dozens of foreign allies,” all according to The New York Times.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, criticized the speech and the President’s integrity in wanting real reform. In an interview with Al Jazeera America, Greenwald said the President never wanted to reform the NSA but “to restore public confidence, meaning to prettify the process to make it seem more palatable.” He instead called for the complete restructuring on the post-9/11 intelligence apparatus for one that is “sensible” and safeguards privacy of everyday civilians.