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Target or Not, the NSA is Storing the Metadata of Millions

New report directly contradicts claims by Obama that the NSA only stores information from people who are specifically targeted

Sarah Lazare

The NSA is recording the online metadata of millions of people—whether or not they are on the NSA target list—and dumping it into a repository where it is stored and searchable for up to a year, the Guardian revealed Monday citing documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

This new revelation directly contradicts claims by President Obama that the NSA only stores information from people who are specifically targeted.

Online metadata—which includes nearly every online activity, from browser history to email activity—is dumped by the NSA into a database codenamed Marina, internal NSA documents reveal. This data is then stored for up to a year. Guardian journalist James Ball reports:

"The Marina metadata application tracks a user's browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target," the analysts' guide explains. "This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development."

The guide goes on to explain Marina's unique capability: "Of the more distinguishing features, Marina has the ability to look back on the last 365 days' worth of DNI metadata seen by the Sigint collection system, regardless whether or not it was tasked for collection." [Emphasis in original.]

Civil liberties advocates slammed the findings that the NSA is not only spying on millions of people without justification but is also holding onto the information it obtains. “This report confirms what whistleblowers have been saying for years: the NSA has been monitoring virtually every aspect of Americans' lives – their communications, their associations, even their locations," ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer told Common Dreams in an email.

The new report follows revelations on Saturday that the NSA is using online and phone data swept up in its vast spying dragnet to build social profiles of U.S. citizens, in some cases augmented by information from the commercial sector.

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