During Thursday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, California senator Dianne Feinstein admitted that the NSA collects emails through "upstream" collection methods. This means
that the security agency is accessing emails directly from the Internet as these messages are being sent, not just from an Internet provider's server which would be the 'downstream' approach.
"Upstream collection... occurs when NSA obtains internet communications, such as e-mails, from certain US companies that operate the Internet background, i.e., the companies that own and
operate the domestic telecommunications lines over which internet traffic flows," she said. Tech blogs have criticized Feinstein's use of the term "background" and suggest that she means