Continuing its series of exposés on the manner in which the United States has been harvesting electronic communication from national and international communication traffic, The Guardian newspaper has acquired top-secret documents about a data mining tool used by the National Security Agency (NSA), called Boundless Informant, “that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.”
A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in what The Guardian describes as a top secret NSA “global heat map” gives an insight into the sheer volume of data being collected by America’s most secretive intelligence agency: In March 2013 alone, it harvested a whopping 97 billion “pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.”
Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, says the newspaper, with more than 14 billion reports in that period, followed by 13.5 billion from Pakistan. Though the U.S. administration may justify the focus on these two countries because of the nuclear programme of the former and because many terrorist groups operate from the territory of the latter, the fact that India clocks in fifth with 6.3 billion pieces of information collected from the country’s computer and data networks in one month alone is bound to cause alarm and consternation in New Delhi. Jordan and Egypt are the third and fourth most intensively watched countries.
Though the Obama administration has attempted to reassure domestic public opinion in America that its spying operations are mainly directed outwards, The Guardian says the Boundless Informant documents show the NSA “collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from U.S. computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013.”
The newspaper reproduced one of the NSA’s colour-coded “heatmaps,” according to which countries are more extensively monitored. The colours range from green, for the least amount of surveillance, to yellow, orange and finally red for those subjected to the most surveillance. India is coded orange. The extent of the NSA’s surveillance of Indian communication traffic is greater than its electronic snooping efforts in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.