Report: NSA Collected Bulk Email Metadata on US Citizens

A newly released report from the NSA’s Inspector General reveals that a program code named Stellar Wind was collecting bulk metadata on the emails of Americans. The program Stellar Wind was revealed before by Bill Binney, so it isn’t entirely new, but the IG report confirms some of Binney’s claims. 

Stellar Wind started out collecting information from people outside the US, but was expanded by the DOJ in 2007 to include Americans. 

The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata “every 90 days”. A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.

The program started out as a “collection of bulk internet metadata” of  “communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States.”  It was eventually expanded and the NSA gained authority to  “analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States”

There is no explanation about why the program was stopped. Shawn Turner the administration’s director of communication for National Intelligence said “The internet metadata collection program authorized by the Fisa court was discontinued in 2011 for operational and resource reasons and has not been restarted. The program was discontinued by the executive branch as the result of an interagency review.”

Email metadata includes such things as the sender and receiver of email, the IP addresses (which can reveal location) and possibly the subject line.