So, how does the NSA get data of everything you do on the web if it isn’t being handed over by your ISP? Is your ISP lying to you? Are they using weasel phrases like “except required by law”?
The Internet was originally designed to be highly decentralized, which would make gathering all communications close to impossible. But in 1994, Merit Systems in Michigan was tasked with developing a plan to migrate the Internet from an academic to one available to the public.
Their solution was to established highly centralized “network Access Points” (NAPs) in key locations in New Jersey, Chicago, Washington DC, San Jose and Dallas. There were lots of rumors at the time that the backbone carriers were fronts for government intelligence operations – since ISPs didn’t want to pay for “transit” services, it meant easy access to snoop on everything for an extremely modest amount of money.
Since then, the 1000s of local dial up ISPs have been replaced by a very small number if broadband carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner who will gladly consent to network taps on their connections – note that in their denials of cooperation, they say they don’t let government agencies have access to their servers. Let me capture and store your entire IP stream from your routers and I don’t need your servers.