What we now know
Johns Hopkins University encryption expert Matthew Green used to worry that he was being too paranoid about the National Security Agency's (NSA) potential surveillance activities. Not anymore.
"I'm no longer the crank. I wasn't even close to cranky enough," Green wrote on his blog last night.
The latest documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the scope of the NSA's surveillance capabilities is far beyond what most independent experts had even dreamed possible.
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The NSA's efforts started in 1993, when the agency and the Clinton administration publicly proposed putting a mandatory "backdoor" into electronic devices. The proposal — the so-called "Clipper Chip" — was blocked by a political coalition, and the NSA seemingly dropped the issue.
However, documents acquired by The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica reveal that since 2000, the NSA has been setting up programs that do exactly what the Clipper Chip was designed to do.
These programs were secret — until now.