Map of the Day: Who the NSA Listens To

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


The Guardian has gotten access to information about an NSA program that categorizes the information it collects:

The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks. The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.

It’s hard to know what to think of this. The map shows which countries are surveilled most intensively, and it turns out that NSA collected about 3 billion pieces of data on U.S. communications over a one-month period this year. That’s a lot. On the other hand, it turns out that this is only about 3 percent of the total that NSA collects globally, which suggests that their focus really is pretty emphatically on non-U.S. communications.

On a side note, geeks might be interested to know that Boundless Informant—yet another great NSA name, no?—is hosted on free and open-source software. Congrats, open source movement!

UPDATE: It’s probably worth noting that the 3 billion number is for DNI data—Digital Network Intelligence. Data collection from American sources makes up about 3 percent of the global total of DNI. But in the same month, NSA also collected about 124 million pieces of DNR data—Dial Number Recognition. It’s possible that the U.S. percentage of this is much greater than 3 percent. But we don’t know.

It’s also worth noting that these numbers appear to relate to the source of the data, not the nationality of the person being surveilled. Those are two different things.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest