'A Goldmine to Exploit': NSA Vacuuming Up Millions of Text Messages Daily

The National Security Agency vacuumed up nearly two hundred million text messages from around the world daily, the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News report on Thursday.

This newest revelation about the NSA’s vast surveillance made possible by documents leaked from whistleblower Edward Snowden exposes a program of untargeted collection called “Dishfire.”

Dishfire collects “pretty much everything it can,” one of the documents stated.

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Dishfire’s vast database of messages allowed the NSA to extract names, information from missed calls, credit card numbers, data from electronic business cards, financial transactions, details of border crossings, travel information and geolocation information.

A top secret presentation on the program provided by Snowden and dated 2011 is subtitled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit.”

Further, the Guardian and Channel 4 News report that the NSA’s British counterpart, the GCHQ, was given access to this database.


Because the NSA is not required to delete UK numbers, the GCHQ had access to vast amounts of metadata on untargeted numbers.

By being given access to the NSA’s trove of data, the GCHQ could skirt British law which requires it to obtain Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act permission before getting access to UK numbers.

“This makes it particularly useful for development of new targets, since it is possible to examine the content of messages sent months or even years before the target was known to be of interest,” the Guardian and Channel 4 News report one of the documents as stating.

The news of text message surveillance comes a day ahead of a speech by President Obama on proposed reforms to the NSA, in which critics predict he will not go nearly far enough to rein in the government surveillance.

Channel 4 News produced this 8-minute video to accompany the report:


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