Until Wednesday morning, you'd probably never heard of something called "XKeyscore," a program that the National Security Agency itself describes as its "widest reaching" means of gathering data from across the Internet.
According to reports shared by NSA leaker Edward Snowden with the Guardian, is that in addition to all of the other recent revelations about the NSA's surveillance programs, by using XKeyscore, "analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the Internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used."
David Brown, who co-authored the recent book "Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry" under the pseudonym D.B. Grady, told NBC News Wednesday the main value of XKeyscore is that it serves as a first point of collection for massive amounts of data the NSA can now cull from digital activities, such as a person's email or Web browsing.
"I like to think of it as plumbing," Brown said. "The pipes come in through XKeyscore, which then diverts the data through different channels, because there's just an awful lot of data."