In an open-to-the-public live chat on The Guardian’s website on Monday, Edward Snowden, the self-proclaimed source of recently leaked top secret National Security Agency documents, promised that more details are forthcoming about the “direct access” the NSA has to tech companies servers.
At the same time, Snowden seemed to acknowledge that current policy restricts the NSA more than technical capabilities do.
“More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want,” Snowden wrote. “Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.”