The Obama administration gathered U.S. citizens’ Internet data until 2011, continuing a spying programme started under President George W. Bush that revealed whom Americans exchanged e-mails with and the Internet Protocol address of their computer, documents disclosed on Thursday show.

The National Security Agency ended the programme that collected e-mail logs and timing, but not content, in 2011 because it decided it didn’t effectively stop terrorist plots, according to the NSA’s director, General Keith Alexander, who also heads the U.S. Cyber Command. He said all data was purged in 2011.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Thursday released documents provided by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden detailing the collection, though the programme was also described earlier this month by The Washington Post.


The collection appears similar to the gathering of U.S. phone records, and seems to overlap with the Prism surveillance programme of foreigners on U.S. Internet servers, both revealed by Mr. Snowden.

U.S. officials have said the phone records can only be checked for numbers dialled by a terrorist suspect overseas. According to the documents published by The Guardian on Thursday, the Internet records show whom they exchanged e-mails with and the specific numeric address assigned to a computer connected to the Internet, known as the IP address.

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