NSA’s Retention of Intimate Details and Photos of Innocent Americans Which are Admittedly “USELESS” for National Security Shows Malintent

” ‘Collect It All, Know It All’ Is Actually the Stasi Model”

The Washington Post reported last week:

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

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.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents.


Many … files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.


A composite image of two of the more than 5,000 private photos among data collected by the National Security Agency from online accounts and network links in the United States. The images were included in a large cache of NSA intercepts provided by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Images obtained by The Washington Post)

The Post continues:

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

“None of the hits that were received were relevant,” two Navy cryptologic technicians write in one of many summaries of nonproductive surveillance. “No additional information,” writes a civilian analyst.

Boing Boing notes:

The collateral targets — who far outnumber [actual targets] — have intimate, totally irrelevant information about their lives collected and retained by the spies, where it is routinely accessed by spies, analysts, and private-sector contractors.

Almost everything in the NSA cache is haystack, in other words, with just a few needles. And the hay is deliberately collected and retained, even though it consists of things like love notes, baby pictures, medical records, and other intimate data belonging to people who are under no suspicion at all.

So why does the NSA retain these intimate – but wholly irrelevant – details and images of innocent Americans?  In other words, even if they were – as the NSA claims – accidentally collected, why on earth is the NSA keeping them?

Washington Post reporters asked an NSA official why the information was retained even though it was “useless”.

According to one of the co-authors of the Washington Post story – Ashkan Soltani – the NSA’s response was that it might become “of interest” at some time in the future (starting at 50:50):

It’s very difficult to ascertain the intelligence value of a particular collection, either a photo or a  communication.

It’s very hard to be absolutely sure that it’s not going to be of interest.

This is not an isolated incident.  For example, US and UK intelligence services have also gathered millions of webcam images … many nude.  And top experts say the NSA is collecting the CONTENT of all of our phone calls and emails.

Indeed, the NSA itself admitted in writing that its “collection posture” is:

“Collect it All,” “Process it All,” “Exploit it All,” “Partner it All,” “Sniff it All” and, ultimately, “Know it All.”


Indeed, for 5,000 years straight, mass surveillance on one’s own people has always aimed at crushing dissent.  Former top-level NSA officials say that this is “J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids“, and that we’ve turned into Stasi Germany or the Soviet Union.  They say we’ve turned into a police state.

What J. Edgar Hoover, the Stasis and the Soviets did was collect information on people, and then use it to discredit, harass or blackmail those they decide they don’t like … including the nation’s most powerful politicians and military leaders.

As a high-level NSA whistleblower told Washington’s Blog:

“Collect it all, know it all” [the NSA’s model] is actually the Stasi model. It’s not just know everything; we have to be able to keep everything that we want to know, even if we don’t know it yet.

It’s a collect it all first mentality … and then we’ll get to know it all. I call it “feeding the beast”.

I keep shuddering because I’m intimately familiar with the East German surveillance state mentality.

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  • Brabantian

    What ‘George Washington’ and other ‘Snowden’ fans are missing, is that these are not ‘Snowden revelations’, this is direct, media-pumped terrorisation by the US government, handing files directly to these CIA-tied ‘Snowden’ journalists.

    How is it that Snowden’s first recipient for his ‘stolen NSA documents’, was Dick Cheney’s CIA-tied friend and biographer at the CIA-tied Washington Post, anti-9-11-truth Bart Gellman, a man who was never brave about anything, and who was mentored by CIA ‘fake brave journalists’ from 40 years ago? Who except a CIA ‘fake dissident’ and liar, would ‘trust’ Dick Cheney’s pal like this?

    It has been proven for some time now the whole ‘Snowden’ thing is a fraud, as detailed in the report in Moscow at Russia’s SVR and FSB security agencies. Snowden is a fake who never ‘stole’ any documents – Russia gov FSB SVR report, Snowden Greenwald are CIA frauds pt1

    Why is it that EVERYONE in the Snowden-Assange gang, their journalists and lawyers, is hostile and even insulting to truth about 11 Sep 2001?

    How is it that Snowden’s US lawyer, Plato Cacheris, has been involved in CIA projects for over 40 years … and is ‘negotiating to bring Snowden home’?

    How is it that Snowden’s 2nd and now ‘main’ journalist, is Glenn Greenwald … Greenwald who is an ex-pornographer like Jimmy Wales ‘founder’ of the CIA’s Wikipedia … who has now worked for 3 billionaire families, richest in USA (Gates) richest in world (Rothschilds) and now CIA-tied Omidyar … Greenwald who also never ‘brave’ about anything … who now has 50 million dollars to do ‘great brave journalism’ and yet produces almost zero … ?

    How is it that Snowden is tied to America’s leading CIA-advisor for 40 years, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Snowden working with Zbig’s son Ian, and being promoted by his media daughter Mika?

    How is that Snowden’s brave media – NY Times, WashPost, UK Guardian – are all known as CIA ‘Operation Mockingbird’ media, who ignore most real dissidents, with the NY Times & UK Guardian having criminal charges registered against them in Europe for helping the CIA to defame EU citizens, and supporting EU internet censorship by CIA-Google?

    How is it that Snowden doesn’t even seem to know what he ‘stole’, deferring it to his fake ‘brave journalists’? How is it that Snowden spends his spare time giving oily praise for CIA-tied media liars, and undermining 11 Sep 01 truth?

    Purpose of ‘Operation Fake Dissident Snowden? -To terrorise the world … to pump up CIA-tied mainstream media like NY Times & Guardian & WashPost … to help destroy 9-11 truth … and likely also to entrap real whistleblowers, who get turned over to US gov after contacting Greenwald or the Guardian.