By technology editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We’re learning some details today about a top-secret National Security Agency program, called XKeyscore, that appears to give the government a window into what we do online.

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In presentation slides provided to The Guardian newspaper by Edward Snowden, the NSA explains how analysts can search through databases of web sites visited, e-mails, chats, and social networking activity — or, as the agency says, “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”

The information can’t legally target Americans without a warrant, but the newspaper says NSA analysts don’t go before a court or even a supervisor before performing a search; instead, they need only provide a broad justification in a pull-down menu — as easily as the rest of us might select “Mr.” or “Mrs.” on a web form.

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Since there’s so much data taken from network sites around the world, The Guardian says, most of it is stored only for a short period of time — though analysts can flag “interesting” traffic and hold it for years.

The NSA says 300 terrorists have been taken down over the past five years using information from XKeyscore.

More information at

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