The National Security Agency routinely collects 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and communications every single day. Any kind of digital communication can be recorded and stored. Where you were when you wrote an email, where the recipient was when it was read, the text of the message can all be stored in enormous facilities like the $2 billion dollar Utah Data Center which contains four 25,000 foot facilities containing rows of data servers. They have to pump 1.7 million gallons of fluid through the facility every day just to keep it from overheating.
The NSA doesn't need a warrant to record your most private conversations. They have managed to circumvent our privacy laws because they define an "intercept" as a piece of information read by an agent. That means they don't need authorization to record and save your information until someone decides they'd like to read it.
Just how big is this domestic spying operation? It recently ensnared the nation's top spy, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Here is how it worked: A woman in Tampa received some emails. The emails read "Who do you think you are?... You parade around... You need to take it down a notch."
Because the woman in Tampa told a friend who worked at the FBI about the emails, a sprawling investigation began. According to the New York Times, the FBI found the computer from which the emails were coming. The account was anonymous, so they used "forensic techniques" to find out what other accounts were accessed from the same computer. The FBI identified a subject and obtained access to her private emails. The FBI then found more emails and then tracked down where those emails had come from.
Turns out salacious messages were coming from the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. And while the FBI was looking around the Tampa woman's computer, they printed off twenty to thirty thousand pages of emails and sent them over to the Department of Defense.
Ignore for a moment that we are talking about the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the beginning, his involvement was unknown. "You need to take it down a notch" was justification for the FBI to access private emails in at least three accounts.
Why should this concern you? You are reading this on a computer or a mobile device. The FBI and the NSA can track you and find out your location. They can then look at your IP address and determine what websites you go to and what accounts you have accessed. They need a warrant to read any email that is less than 180 days old, but they can read any older email with only a court order that does not require probable cause. Just yesterday, Google disclosed that they have received 7,969 requests for information and access from the United States government in the first half of 2012.
The FBI, if they thought they had a reason, could find out where you are and read your email, with relatively little oversight. Don't think they can? This is what happened to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, an active four star general and two women. Even after this incredible invasion of privacy, the FBI has determined that no crime was likely committed and charges are unlikely to be filed.
Want to know what a national security state looks like? Look around.