Fri Jul 19, 2013 AT 10:36 AM EDT
A National Security Agency representative rather casually disclosed, during testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday, that the government looks at data several degrees of separation beyond previously indicated, The Atlantic Wire reports. John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations, according to The Guardian. “Hops” refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA looks at the suspected terrorist, and then (1) everyone with whom the suspect communicated, and then (2) everyone with whom those individuals communicated, and then (3) everyone with whom those individuals communicated.