Atlantic Wire: As an aside during testimony on Capitol Hill today, a National Security Agency representative rather casually indicated that the government looks at data from a universe of far, far more people than previously indicated.
Chris Inglis, the agency’s deputy director, was one of several government representatives — including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence — testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government’s surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.
But Inglis’ statement was new. Analysts look “two or three hops” from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed. Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops. This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with — one hop. And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with — two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three. Two hops. And now: A third hop. [Continue reading…]
Let’s put that into numbers. Let’s suppose the suspect has a small circle of 25 contacts but each of them has a more commonplace network of 100 contacts and each of them also has 100 contacts.
That means when the NSA identifies one suspect it will then actively engage in surveillance on as many and perhaps more than 250,000 people!