The National Security Agency has built a Google like search engine that allows multiple government agencies to search information through more than 850 billion communications records, including phone calls, cell phone locations, emails, internet chats and other communications, according to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The search tool, dubbed ICREACH was developed by the NSA as early as 2007, but was only made public on Monday from the classified documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
A 2007 document described the program as a one-stop shopping tool for communications analysis, which was masterminded by recently retired NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander. ICREACH comprises information on the private communications of foreigners along with numerous records on American citizens innocent of any wrongdoing.
The document furnishes clear evidence that the intelligence agency has been making a massive amount of surveillance information available to domestic law enforcement agencies for several years. Documents were routinely shared with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and CIA, which means the law enforcement agencies would have had easy access not only to billions of email and phone call records, but also internet chat records and cell phone locations.
According to a 2010 memo, more than 1,000 analysts from 23 government agencies had access to the NSA’s search engine.
“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. Intelligence Community,” another top-secret memo from 2007 reads. "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."
It is said that the search engine was built with the purpose of becoming the largest system for internally sharing confidential surveillance records in the U.S. capable of processing two to five billion new records every single day, including more than thirty different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, web chats, text messages and various other information
A US official familiar with the system said that the search tool enables the sharing of certain foreign intelligence metadata; ICREACH is not a depository and does not stock events or records.
The Director of National Intelligence admitted the existence of such a search tool, noting that sharing information had become "a pillar of the post-9/11 intelligence community" as part of an effort to prevent valuable intelligence from being "stove-piped in any single office or agency."