The NSA has intercepted communications from hundreds of email accounts associated with major global cell phone network operators in order to identify weaknesses in the networks that can be exploited for surveillance, The Intercept reported on Thursday.

The operation is referred to as AURORAGOLD. The article cites documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which also reveal plans to covertly insert new vulnerabilities into communication systems for NSA use.

In a statement emailed to on Friday, Patrick Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, referred to the notion of the NSA undermining cell phone network security as ‘troubling.'

“These activities go far beyond targeted surveillance of wrongdoers,” Toomey said. “Instead, by introducing systemic weaknesses and secret backdoors, they leave us more vulnerable to criminals and hackers. The NSA should not make us all less safe in the name of its spying agenda.”