In what seems to be a recurring story for the last two months an article in the Wall Street Journal reports that the National Security Agency's surveillance reach was even broader than they had acknowledged publicly; the NSA has the capacity to spy on 75 percent of U.S. Internet traffic.
Both current and former officials spoke with the Wall Street Journal and said that while the NSA is attempting to monitor email communications that either are sent from or sent to a foreign address it is likely that many domestic emails will also be retained. For the most part the NSA does not have the authority to monitor U.S. citizens.
As was the case when defending the phone surveillance an NSA spokeswoman said that while the programs may retain the communications of U.S. citizens that they use "minimization procedures that are approved by the U.S. attorney general and designed to protect the privacy of United States persons," according to the Wall Street Journal.
When the NSA gathers data between U.S. citizens it is supposed to be discarded. Officials say that the vast majority of the data is discarded, but not all of it. Since the first NSA surveillance programs were revealed when Edward Snowden leaked the information to the Guardian lawmakers and citizens alike have been concerned that the program violates the privacy of U.S. citizens, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"Technology is moving us swiftly into a world where the only barriers to this kind of dragnet surveillance are the protections enshrined into law," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.
NSA officials told the Wall Street Journal that in an effort to root out terrorist "sleeper cells" the NSA saw the parameters of their program greatly expanded as they took advantage of the Bush administration's mandate for warrantless wiretapping.
The Wall Street Journal said that the NSA powers reached so far that they were even able to spy on an entire city:
For the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, officials say, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and NSA arranged with Qwest Communications International Inc. to use intercept equipment for a period of less than six months around the time of the event. It monitored the content of all email and text communications in the Salt Lake City.
The NSA is still unaware of how many documents that Snowden was able to obtain when he was working as a system administrator for the NSA. Intelligence officials think that the NSA's poor ability to audit itself has been exploited by the Snowden incident, according to NBC News.