When he leaked details of the NSA's spy programs, Edward Snowden also gave the Washington Post access to 22,000 NSA surveillance reports.
After investigating, the Washington Post found only about 11 percent of the reports actually related to actual surveillance targets. About half of the surveillance files contained information gathered on U.S. citizens, including personal emails, family photos, chat logs and stored documents.
Most of the files and information were described as useless by the reporting analysts, but the NSA retained the information anyway.
The information, most disturbingly, is an actual window into the personal lives of the individuals who were spied on by the NSA. Their lives were on display to an analyst at some point.
Out of the 11 percent of the NSA's data that actually was about real targets, however, the Washington Post has discovered some intriguing espionage information.
Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.
The NSA will point to these successes as proof that they have a right to our information. I'm still not entirely convinced that there isn't a better way. While national security is definitely important, I'd rather not have my personal information revealed along with the other 90 percent of data collected by the NSA.