The agency’s Dishfire database — nothing happens without a code word at the N.S.A. — stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case. Its Tracfin collection accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases. The fellow pretending to send a text message at an Internet cafe in Jordan may be using an N.S.A. technique code-named Polarbreeze to tap into nearby computers. The Russian businessman who is socially active on the web might just become food for Snacks, the acronym-mad agency’s Social Network Analysis Collaboration Knowledge Services, which figures out the personnel hierarchies of organizations from texts.
And how are your browsing habits? The NSA has gotten into the malware game as well,
In the Orlandocard operation, N.S.A. technicians set up what they called a “honeypot” computer on the web that attracted visits from 77,413 foreign computers and planted spyware on more than 1,000 that the agency deemed of potential future interest.
Just in case you did not feel paranoid enough already consider this:
Some of Mr. Snowden’s documents describe the exploits of Tailored Access Operations, the prim name for the N.S.A. division that breaks into computers around the world to steal the data inside, and sometimes to leave spy software behind. T.A.O. is increasingly important in part because it allows the agency to bypass encryption by capturing messages as they are written or read, when they are not encoded.
If it was not for the disclosures that these tools are being used on our own citizens these points would be considered bragging.
But the answer is not elimination of this surveillance colossus, rather it is stringent oversight of their activities. The NSA has gotten away with these activities because they carry a get out of jail free card called the Patriot Act,and use a magic wand called "need to know."
The other side of this problem is finding people who are not invested into the NSA's cult of secrets to oversee the activities, people who can be trusted both to keep the secrets needed to be kept but honest enough to reign in this giant when they overstep their authority.