Two weeks after Edward Snowden’s first revelations about sweeping government surveillance, President Obama shot back. "We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany," Obama said during a visit to Berlin in June.
The NSA is a "supercomputing powerhouse" with machines so powerful their speed is measured in thousands of trillions of operations per second.
Among the snooping revelations of recent weeks, there have been tantalizing bits of evidence that the NSA is tapping fiber-optic cables that carry nearly all international phone and Internet data.
Last week saw revelations that the FBI and the National Security Agency have been collecting Americans' phone records en masse and that the agencies have access to data from nine tech companies.But secrecy around the programs has meant even basic questions are still unanswered. Here's what we still don't know:
The IRS division responsible for flagging Tea Party groups has long been an agency afterthought, beset by mismanagement, financial constraints and an unwillingness to spell out just what it expects from social welfare nonprofits, former officials and experts say.
In January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, ascended to the powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee. Six weeks later, campaign finance filings and interviews show, Hensarling was joined by representatives of the banking industry for a ski vacation fundraiser at a posh Park City, Utah, resort.
A House bill would bar the IRS from offering taxpayers software that would compete with programs like TurboTax. Tax activist Grover Norquist and others wrote a letter to members of Congress that urged them to support the bill — what they called a "pro-taxpayer, anti-IRS power grab legislation." At issue is how Americans file their taxes and whether electronic filing can be offered directly through the IRS.
There may be another benefit for corporations from the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that opened up the way for unlimited corporate spending on politics: tax breaks.
As the country cracks down on peaceful protesters, a company called Qorvis is spinning Washington on their behalf.