WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. National SecurityAgency collects hundreds of millions of contact lists frompersonal email and instant messaging accounts around the world,including many from Americans, The Washington Post reported onMonday.
The collection program intercepts email address books and"buddy lists" from instant messaging services as they moveacross global data links, the newspaper said in an articleposted on its website, citing senior intelligence officials anddocuments provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The Post said analyzing that data lets the NSA search forconnections and map relationships among foreign intelligencetargets.
The data collection takes place outside the United States,but sweeps in the contacts of many Americans, the report said,citing two senior U.S. intelligence officials.
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of NationalIntelligence, which oversees the NSA, said the agency is focusedon discovering and developing intelligence about foreignintelligence targets. "We are not interested in personalinformation about ordinary Americans," he told the Post.
Snowden's revelations about the reach and methods of theNSA, including the monitoring of vast volumes of Internettraffic and phone records, have upset U.S. allies from Germanyto Brazil. Admirers call him a human rights champion and criticsdenounce him as a traitor.
The 30-year-old is now living in a secret location inRussia, beyond the reach of U.S. authorities who want him onespionage charges because he leaked the details of top-secretelectronic spying programs to the media.
He traveled to Hong Kong in May and later, under pressurefrom China, flew to Moscow, where he has been granted a year'sasylum.
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