Just how much is the National Security Agency looking into our Internet and phone activity? New documents and information released Wednesday show more than we may think.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday to try to understand how the NSA could know so much about private citizens, and still go unchecked by those elected to represent us.
"The government is already collecting data on millions of innocent Americans on a daily basis, based on a secret legal interpretation of a statute that does not appear to authorize this kind of bulk collection. So what is going to be next? When is enough - enough?" says Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D) Vermont - Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As the hearing was going on Glenn Greenwald, "The Guardian" journalist who broke the story about US government surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden, broke another story. This one with the headline "NSA Tool Collects Nearly Everything A User Does On The Internet" The NSA is using a program called XKEYSCORE.
"It's a program used by the NSA to collect all Internet activity," says Greenwald, "Everything that they can collect, store and then allow their low level analysts access to terminals to search whatever it is they want. They find out what your e-mails say. What Internet sites you've visited."
XKEYSCORE may be the type of tool National Intelligence Director James Clapper tried to rub away the memory of during his congressional testimony in March.
"If you can give me a yes or no answer to the question "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions Americans?" asked Sen. Ron Wyden, (D) Oregon.
"No sir," says National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
"It does not?" asks Sen. Wyden.
"No. not wittingly," answers Clapper.
However, Clapper later admitted that wasn't true and Wednesday Clapper's office released its own set of stunning documents. Among them, a classified congressional briefing paper outlining the Patriot Act provision allowing for an "early warning system". The system involves logging all domestic emails and phone conversations of Americans with this attempted assurance: "Only a tiny fraction of such records are ever viewed by NSA intelligence analysts."