If you believe that you have a right as an American citizen to your privacy online and on your mobile phone, then this ProPublica story will alarm you. The advocacy group says that the NSA has "circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world. "
The intelligence agency has done this over the last decade by spending billions of taxpayer dollars "in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop." It deployed "custom made superfast computers" to crack code, and it worked with technology companies in the U.S. and abroad to build "entry points" into the most popular software products. The agency even went so far as to introduce weaknesses in encryption code so that it could easily crack it when it wanted information from a computer or a service.
All of this information comes from a report written by ProPublica and the New York Times, based on documents and interviews conducted with officials with knowledge of the situation.
“For the past decade, N.S.A. has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” said a 2010 memo describing a briefing about N.S.A. accomplishments for employees of its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. “Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”
When the British analysts, who worked closely with N.S.A. officers, were first told about the program, another memo said, “those not already briefed were gobsmacked!”
A recent intelligence budget document indicates that this program is still alive and very active.
“We are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit Internet traffic,” the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., wrote in his budget request for the current year.
It gets much, much worse. I encourage you to head over to ProPublica and read the entire article carefully. It was written by members of ProPublica and the New York Times. It will alarm you, scare you, and likely make you angry at how far the government has gone in order to track anything it wants to concerning American citizens.