The newest Snowden revelations have brought to light the existence of a metadata search engine built by the US National Security Agency, according to The Intercept.
Details on phone calls, cellphone locations, emails and internet messages are included in the more than 850 billion metadata records.
Photo Credit: The Intercept
“ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing,” the article said. “Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.”
The Google-like search engine, dubbed ICREACH, was built with the sole purpose of sharing more than 850 billion metadata records with other agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, DEA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CGHQ.
More than 1,000 analysts from 23 US government intelligence agencies had access to the ICREACH search engine in 2010.
“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. Intelligence Community,” said a 2007 top-secret memo. “This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets.”
The ICREACH scope was to be the largest secret surveillance records sharing-system in the US, able to handle between two billion to five billion records per day and more than 30 different types of metadata, from emails and phone calls to cell phone location information.
The surveillance tool draws its roots from the early ’90s CIA and DEA classified surveillance program dubbed CRISSCROSS and the 1999 add-on called PROTON. CRISSCROSS was the initial database in which the data of high-value targets or persons of interest was stored, as PROTON enabled analysts to examine and store additional data such as location data, text messages, cell phones, flight records and passport details.
The next big step was the secret proposal of ICREACH by NSA chief Gen. Alexander to the National Intelligence Director, dated 2006.
This is how the NSA ended up creating the ICREACH surveillance tool that today includes a large expanse of data from the US communication systems.