The electronic spies at the National Security Agency have tried lately to play down the amount of Internet traffic they inspect — and play up how central that monitoring is to stopping terrorist attacks. Neither one of those arguments is entirely true. Yes, the NSA claimed in a recently released white paper that it “touches” only 1.6 percent of the planet’s online data, but the agency neglected to note that this is roughly equivalent to the Library of Congress’s entire textual collection, inspected 2,990 times every day. And sure, the NSA’s Internet surveillance has been instrumental in some counterterrorism operations. But this analysis of online communications has also been central to U.S. spying on places like Syria, Libya, China, and Iran.
From ‘The NSA’s Data Haul Is Bigger Than You Can Possibly Imagine’ by Matthew M. Aid in Foreign Policy on August 15, 2013 available here.