We already knew the NSA has potential access to most of the Internetting Americans do through PRISM and other programs, but the latest Edward Snowden leak reveals just how easy it is for the government to access and analyze a whole lot of information. Through a program called XKeyscore, analysts can easily sift through what the NSA calls "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet," per more documents and slides revealed to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald. "The quantity of communications accessible through programs such as XKeyscore is staggeringly large," he adds.
And analyzing all of it is incredibly easy, too. With a simple e-mail query or selection from a pull-down menu, for example, the database can pull up more than just metadata, including the contents of a message. An analyst just has to fill out this form with a "query name" and a "justification":
Despite the field for a justification, the "request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed," says Greenwald. Then, this next screen pops up and "the analyst then selects which of those returned emails they want to read by opening them in NSA reading software," explains Greenwald.