The NSA’s Mission for National Security Includes Data Collection


President Obama spoke about the need to strike a balance between the need for security – through surveillance – and preserving one’s freedoms and privacy, in a May 2013 address. Following the words of the President, the NSA has published its mission for all to see. Excerpts and insights of which, can be found below.

The National Security Agency’s mission to protect national security includes providing intelligence information from data gathering to policy makers and military commanders.

The agency’s priorities, it states, are driven by “externally developed and validated intelligence requirements” provided to the agency through the National Intelligence Priorities Framework by the President and his national security team.

NSA carries out its mission under the directives of FISA authorizations, particularly during foreign intelligence information gathering. For instance, Section 702 of the FISA authorizes the NSA to target non-US nationals located outside the United States for a period of up to 1 year to acquire foreign intelligence information.

Specifically, the NSA uses particular identifiers used by ‘non-U.S. persons’, as the agency deems it. Identifiers such as phone numbers and email addresses.

The scope and scale of NSA collection, as revealed by a major technology provider according to the agency, sees the authority touch or access 1.6% of the 1.826 Petabytes of information carried over the internet, every single day. While 1.6% of that data is accessed or combed by the NSA, only 0.025% is selected for review, the agency adds. Altogether, NSA analysts look at about 0.00004% of the world’s traffic, the NSA claims, less than one in a million.

The sweeping effort to conduct its mission sees the NSA explain its information collection endeavors as follows:

Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA’s total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court.

The NSA’s complete description of its mission, authorities, oversight and partnerships can be found here.

Image credit: Wikimedia.