In Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide, he addresses the National Security Agency's need to know it all. Greenwald was one of three recipients of the top-secret information Edward Snowden chose to leak. He used some of Snowden's findings to address that the NSA is truly trying to know it all, regardless of the cost.
One of the more curious points in his book is the NSA's role in intercepting communication through hardware technology. In an excerpt from his new book, published in The Guardian, Greenwald believes that the NSA has been "covertly implanting interception tools in U.S. servers heading overseas," particularly to China. The U.S. has issued similar warnings in the past about using routers and other Internet providing devices made in China, saying "they are built with backdoor surveillance functionality that gives the Chinese government the ability to spy on anyone using them."
However, in Greenwald's research he came across NSA documents showing that the United States was doing this to China, at the same time they were accusing the Chinese. A report from June 2010 was particularly obvious in the NSA's motive. The report came from the head of the Access and Target Development Department, and confirmed "The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers."
As American companies were warned not to use Chinese made routers, foreign companies were warned against American made routers. After the NSA would intercept a device, it would implant their own surveillance tools, repackage the device using the brand's factory seal, and send the device back on its way. After the user receives their device and begins using it, the surveillance tool activates and connects with the NSA's systems in the United States. The June 2010 report goes on to say, "In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure. This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network."
In 2008, Keith Alexander, then head of the NSA, asked “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time?” It seems we can.