Newly published documents from the Edward Snowden archive show that researchers at MIT's Lincoln Lab and Harvard University have worked with the NSA on a program called SKYNET, which uses bulk location and call records to look for patterns and associations. The program appears to be directed at Pakistan, although the underlying technology could be used to analyze data collected on Americans through the Section 215 dragnets.
The Intercept revealed the existence of the SKYNET program, highlighting the NSA's targeting of an al Jazeera journalist through the tracking program.
The U.S. government labeled a prominent journalist as a member of Al Qaeda and placed him on a watch list of suspected terrorists, according to a top-secret document that details U.S. intelligence efforts to track Al Qaeda couriers by analyzing metadata.
The briefing singles out Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, Al Jazeera’s longtime Islamabad bureau chief, as a member of the terrorist group. A Syrian national, Zaidan has focused his reporting throughout his career on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and has conducted several high-profile interviews with senior Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.
A slide dated June 2012 from a National Security Agency PowerPoint presentation bears his photo, name, and a terror watch list identification number, and labels him a “member of Al-Qa’ida” as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. It also notes that he “works for Al Jazeera.”