The New York Times & The New Yorker report that the NSA is using the premise of investigating foreign citizens to ‘inadvertently’ read the electronic communications of massive numbers of US citizens.
From The New Yorker:
“The N.S.A. has, according to the Times, collected and read many more e-mails sent by Americans than had been known—more, some in Congress and on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court think, than it had any legal right to. It worked, roughly, like this: the N.S.A. would want to listen in on someone—someone foreign. But, what with routers and servers, it isn’t always clear on e-mail who is American (and thus generally off limits) and who isn’t. A new law, passed last year, let them collect a bit more freely if, as the Times put it, ‘it was done only as the incidental byproduct of investigating individuals “reasonably believed” to be overseas.’
But the N.S.A. seems to have taken this as a free pass to scoop up e-mails in a wholesale manner. An analyst told the Times that “the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants—including Bill Clinton’s private correspondence.”