EDWARD SNOWDEN'S LEAKS suggest that the US National Security Agency (NSA) successfully conducts surveillance on a suspect just one time out of nine.
This is a low strike rate, and we put it to the National Security Agency. It said that the reports and numbers are misleading.
"Recent news accounts cite figures that suggest foreign intelligence collection intercepts the communications of nine 'bystanders' for every 'legally targeted' foreigner. These reports simply discuss the kind of incidental interception of communications that we have always said takes place under Section 702," said Robert Litt, general counsel, office of the director of national intelligence.
"We target only valid foreign intelligence targets under that authority, and the most that you could conclude from these news reports is that each valid foreign intelligence target talks to an average of nine people."
It is the Washington Post that reported on the less than sharp shooting agency, and it is there that we learned that its systems may need something of an eye test.
The Washington Post reported that it has carried out a four month study on the NSA documents and found that run of the mill internet users have been pulled into its nets like so many dolphin among the tuna.
"Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else," it said.
"Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to US citizens or residents."
The material was collected from 2009 to 2012, and the Washington Post study discovered a load of stored information that is of no real merit or worth to anyone. It said that the analysts' comments on the paper suggested that they could see no benefits in keeping the "intimate", "voyeuristic" content.
Commenting on files that include items like photos of children on swings, analysts said, "None of the hits that were received were relevant," and wrote, "No additional information" on papers.
Snowden, speaking to the Washington Post, said that while the information might be redundant now, it could be used in the future.
"Even if one could conceivably justify the initial, inadvertent interception of baby pictures and love letters of innocent bystanders, their continued storage in government databases is both troubling and dangerous," he said. "Who knows how that information will be used in the future?" µ