The National Security Agency just does not know how to not muck it up when it comes to surveillance. The mounting evidence continues to suggest that the NSA continues to collect massive amounts of information from phone records and internet activity, in a series of leaks at least partially orchestrated by analyst Edward Snowden. Now, we are learning that the NSA is currently searching the emails of American citizens to find content that relates to "national security" matters.
The NSA program uncovered today entails targeting emails and texts entering and exiting the country. The difference between what has been previously disclosed, in particular the interception of direct communications by foreigners under surveillance, is that the emails and other communications being searched need not come from or sent to said foreigner under surveillance. They merely have to mention said foreigners' activities, or a set of keywords related to those foreigners.
The process in searching for that information, however, is overly broad, simplistic, and inefficient: Rather than monitoring communications that raise certain keywords, the NSA copies the bulk of communications that cross the border, then sifts through the emails and texts to look for the information they need. The searches are reportedly only temporary, but there are no specifics on how long the emails are actually held.
In response to these recent allegations, the NSA has been pointing to a law passed in 2008, the FISA Amendments Act, which gave them the power to eavesdrop on American soil, as long as the "target" of surveillance is a foreigner. This particular revelation, however, seems to be stretching that rule extremely far, to the point that its legality can and must be questioned, for the NSA needs only to see a foreigner's name or activity being mentioned in order for communications to be monitored directly. The extent of the NSA leaks has not reached its bottom yet, and it is likely that even more egregious invasions on privacy and personal freedom will develop.