Sunday, July 28, 2013

'Big Data' Dynamo: How Giant Tech Firms Help the Government Spy on Us and Gut Privacy

As the secret state continues trawling the electronic communications of hundreds of millions of Americans, lusting after what securocrats euphemistically call "actionable intelligence," a notional tipping point that transforms a "good" citizen into a "criminal" suspect, the role played by telecommunications and technology firms cannot be emphasized enough.

Ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking secrets to media outlets about government surveillance programs, one fact stands out: The zero probability these privacy-killing projects would be practical without close (and very profitable) "arrangements" made with phone companies, internet service providers and other technology giants.

Indeed, a top secret NSA Inspector General's report published by The Guardian, revealed that the agency "maintains relationships with over 100 US companies," adding that the US has the "home field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide telecommunications."

Similarly, the British fiber optic cable tapping program, TEMPORA, referred to telcos and ISPs involved in the spying as "intercept partners." The names of the firms were considered so sensitive that GCHQ "went to great lengths" to keep their identities hidden, fearing exposure "would cause 'high-level political fallout'."

With new privacy threats looming on the horizon, including what CNET described as ongoing efforts by the FBI and NSA "to obtain the master encryption keys that Internet companies use to shield millions of users' private Web communications from eavesdropping," along with new government demands that ISPs and cell phone carriers "divulge users' stored passwords," can we trust these firms?

And with Microsoft and other tech giants, collaborating closely with "US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption," can we afford to?

Hiding in Plain Sight

Ever since retired union technician Mark Klein blew the lid off AT&T's secret surveillance pact with the US government in 2006, we know user privacy is not part of that firm's business model.

The technical source for the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T and the author of Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine, Klein was the first to publicly expose how NSA was "vacuuming up everything flowing in the Internet stream: e-mail, web browsing, Voice-Over-Internet phone calls, pictures, streaming video, you name it."

We also know from reporting by USA Today, that the agency "has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans" and had amassed "the largest database ever assembled in the world."

Three of those data-slurping programs, UPSTREAM, PRISM and X-KEYSCORE, shunt domestic and global communications collected from fiber optic cables, the servers of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, along with telephone data (including metadata, call content and location) grabbed from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon into NSA-controlled databases.

But however large, a database is only useful to an organization, whether its a corporation or a spy agency, if the oceans of data collected can be searched and extracted in meaningful ways.

To the growing list of spooky acronyms and code-named black programs revealed by Edward Snowden, what other projects, including those in the public domain, are hiding in plain sight?

Add Google's BigTable and Yahoo's Hadoop to that list. Both are massive storage and retrieval systems designed to crunch ultra-large data sets and were developed as a practical means to overcome "big data" conundrums.

According to the Mountain View behemoth, "BigTable is a distributed storage system for managing structured data that is designed to scale to a very large size: petabytes of data across thousands of commodity servers." Along with web indexing, Google Earth and Google Finance, BigTable performs "bulk processing" for "real-time data serving."

Down the road in Sunnyvale, Yahoo developed Hadoop as "an open source Java framework for processing and querying vast amounts of data on large clusters of commodity hardware." According to Yahoo, Hadoop has become "the industry de facto framework for big data processing." Like Google's offering, Hadoop enable applications to work with thousands of computers and petabytes of data simultaneously.

Prominent corporate clients using these applications include Amazon, AOL, eBay, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter, among many others.

'Big Data' Dynamo

Who might also have a compelling interest in cataloging and searching through very large data sets, away from prying eyes, and at granular levels to boot? It should be clear following Snowden's disclosures, what's good for commerce is also a highly-prized commodity among global eavesdroppers.

Despite benefits for medical and scientific researchers sifting through mountains of data, as Ars Technica pointed out BigTable and Hadoop "lacked compartmentalized security" vital to spy shops, so "in 2008, NSA set out to create a better version of BigTable, called Accumulo."

Developed by agency specialists, it was eventually handed off to the "non-profit" Apache Software Foundation. Touted as an open software platform, Accumulo is described in Apache literature as "a robust, scalable, high performance data storage and retrieval system."

"The platform allows for compartmentalization of segments of big data storage through an approach called cell-level security. The security level of each cell within an Accumulo table can be set independently, hiding it from users who don't have a need to know: whole sections of data tables can be hidden from view in such a way that users (and applications) without clearance would never know they weren't there," Ars Technica explained.

The tech site Gigaom noted, Accumulo is the "technological linchpin to everything the NSA is doing from a data-analysis perspective," enabling agency analysts to "generate near real-time reports from specific patterns in data," Ars averred.

"For instance, the system could look for specific words or addressees in e-mail messages that come from a range of IP addresses; or, it could look for phone numbers that are two degrees of separation from a target's phone number. Then it can spit those chosen e-mails or phone numbers into another database, where NSA workers could peruse it at their leisure."

(Since that Ars piece appeared, we have since learned that NSA is now conducting what is described as "three-hop analysis," that is, three degrees of separation from a target's email or phone number. This data dragnet "could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist," the Associated Press observed).

"In other words," Ars explained, "Accumulo allows the NSA to do what Google does with your e-mails and Web searches--only with everything that flows across the Internet, or with every phone call you make."

Armed with a "dual-use" program like Accumulo, the dirty business of assembling a user's political profile, or shuttling the names of "suspect" Americans into a national security index, is as now easy as downloading a song from iTunes!

And it isn't only Silicon Valley giants cashing-in on the "public-private" spy game.

Just as the CIA-funded Palantir, a firm currently valued at $8 billion and exposed two years ago as a "partner" in a Bank of America-brokered scheme to bring down WikiLeaks, profited from CIA interest in its social mapping Graph application, so too, the NSA spin-off Sqrrl, launched in 2012 with agency blessings, stands to make a killing off software its corporate officers helped develop for NSA.

Co-founded by nine-year agency veteran Adam Fuchs, Sqrrl sells commercial versions of Accumulo and has partnered-up with Amazon, Dell, MapR and Northrop Grumman. According to published reports, like other start-ups with an intelligence angle, Sqrrl is hoping to hook-up with CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel.

Its obvious why the application is of acute interest to American spy shops. Fuchs told Gigaom that Accumulo operates "at thousands-of-nodes scale" within NSA data centers.

"There are multiple instances each storing tens of petabytes (1 petabyte equals 1,000 terabytes or 1 million gigabytes) of data and it's the backend of the agency's most widely used analytical capabilities."

Accumulo's analytical functions work because of its ability to perform lightning-quick searches called "graph analysis," a method for uncovering unique relationships between people hidden within vast oceans of data.

According to Forbes, "we know that the NSA has successfully tested Accumulo's graph analysis capabilities on some huge data sets--in one case on a 1200 node Accumulo cluster with over a petabyte of data and 70 trillion edges."

Considering, as Wired reported, that "on an average day, Google accounts for about 25 percent of all consumer internet traffic running through North American ISPs," and the Mountain View firm allowed the FBI and NSA to tap directly into their central servers as The Washington Post disclosed, the negative impact on civil rights and political liberties when systems designed for the Pentagon are monetized, should be evident.

Once fully commercialized, how much more intrusive will employers, marketing firms, insurance companies or local and state police with mountains of data only a mouse click away, become?

Global Panopticon

The sheer scope of NSA programs such as UPSTREAM, PRISM or X-KEYSCORE, exposed by the Brazilian daily, O Globo should give pause.

A crude illustration (at the top of this post), shows that all data collected in X-KEYSCORE "sessions" are processed in petabyte scale batches captured from "web-based searches" that can be "retrospectively" queried to locate and profile a "target."

This requires enormous processing power; a problem the agency may have solved with Accumulo or similar applications.

Once collected, data is separated into digestible fragments (phone numbers, email addresses and log ins), then reassembled at lightning speeds for searchable queries in graphic form. Information gathered in the hopper includes not only metadata tables, but the "full log," including what spooks call Digital Network Intelligence, i.e., user content.

And while it may not yet be practical for NSA to collect and store each single packet flowing through the pipes, the agency is already collecting and storing vast reams of data intercepted from our phone records, IP addresses, emails, web searches and visits, and is doing so in much the same way that Amazon, eBay, Google and Yahoo does.

As the volume of global communications increase each year at near exponential levels, data storage and processing pose distinct problems.

Indeed, Cisco Systems forecast in their 2012 Visual Networking Index that global IP traffic will grow three-fold over the next five years and will carry up to 4 exabytes of data per day, for an annual rate of 1.4 zettabytes by 2017.

This does much to explain why NSA is building a $2 billion Utah Data Center with 22 acres of digital storage space that can hold up to 5 zettabytes of data and expanding already existing centers at Fort Gordon, Lackland Air Force Base, NSA Hawaii and at the agency's Fort Meade headquarters.

Additionally, NSA is feverishly working to bring supercomputers online "that can execute a quadrillion operations a second" at the Multiprogram Research facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where enriched uranium for nuclear weapons is manufactured, as James Bamford disclosed last year in Wired.

As the secret state sinks tens of billions of dollars into various big data digital programs, and carries out research on next-gen cyberweapons more destructive than Flame or Stuxnet, as those supercomputers come online the cost of cracking encrypted passwords and communications will continue to fall.

Stanford University computer scientist David Mazières told CNET that mastering encrypted communications would "include an order to extract them from the server or network when the user logs in--which has been done before--or installing a keylogger at the client."

This is precisely what Microsoft has already done with its SkyDrive cloud storage service "which now has 250 million users worldwide" and exabytes of data ready to be pilfered, as The Guardian disclosed.

One document "stated that NSA already had pre-encryption access to Outlook email. 'For Prism collection against Hotmail, Live, and emails will be unaffected because Prism collects this data prior to encryption'."

Call the "wrong" person or click a dodgy link and you might just be the lucky winner of a one-way trip to indefinite military detention under NDAA, or worse.

What should also be clear since revelations about NSA surveillance programs began spilling out last month, is not a single ruling class sector in the United States--including corporations, the media, nor any branch of the US government--has the least interest in defending democratic rights or rolling-back America's emerging police state.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Documents Show Undersea Cable Firms Provide Surveillance Access to US Secret State

Documents published last week by the Australian web site Crikey revealed that the US government "compelled Telstra and Hong Kong-based PCCW to give it access to their undersea cables for spying on communications traffic entering and leaving the US."

The significance of the disclosure is obvious; today, more than 99 percent of the world's internet and telephone traffic is now carried by undersea fiber optic cables. An interactive submarine cable map published by the Global Bandwidth Research Service is illustrative in this regard.

Since the late 1960s as part of its ECHELON spy project, the United States has been tapping undersea cables to extract communications and signals intelligence. In fact, projects such as Operation Ivy Bells, a joint Navy-NSA secret intelligence program directed against the former Soviet Union was designed to do just that.

Prefiguring the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping scandal which broke in 2005, the Associated Press reported that a $3.2 billion Navy Seawolf class submarine, a 453-foot behemoth called the USS Jimmy Carter, "has a special capability: it is able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on the communications passing through them."

A year later, AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein told Wired Magazine that NSA was tapping directly into the world's internet backbone, and was doing so from domestic listening posts the telecommunications' giant jointly built with the agency at corporate switching stations.

Whatever submarine operations NSA still carry out with the US Navy and "Five Eyes" surveillance partners (Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US), access to information flowing through undersea cables mean that the US government is well-positioned to scoop-up virtually all global communications.

Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began spilling the beans last month, it should be clear that the American government's capabilities in amassing unprecedented volumes of information from cable traffic, also potentially hands the US and their corporate collaborators a treasure trove of sensitive economic secrets from competitors.

Economic Espionage

Reporting by Australian journalists confirm information published July 6 by The Washington Post. There we learned that overseas submarine cable companies doing business in the United States must maintain "an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances," a cadre of personnel whose job is to ensure that "when US government agencies seek access to the massive amounts of data flowing through their networks, the companies have systems in place to provide it securely."

Inked just weeks after the 9/11 provocation, the 23-page Telstra document specifies that access to undersea cable traffic by the FBI and "any US governmental authorities entitled to effect Electronic Surveillance," is an explicit condition for doing business in the United States.

Similar agreements were signed between 1999 and 2011 with telecommunication companies, satellite firms, submarine cable operators and the US government and were published earlier this month by the Public Intelligence web site.

It has long been known that the Australian secret state agency, the Defence Security Directorate (DSD), is a key participant in US global surveillance projects. Classified NSA maps provided by Snowden and subsequently published by Brazil's O Globo newspaper, revealed the locations of dozens of US and allied signals intelligence sites worldwide. DSD currently operates four military installations involved in a top secret NSA program called X-Keyscore.

Snowden described X-Keyscore and other programs to Der Spiegel as "the intelligence community's first 'full-take' Internet buffer that doesn't care about content type . . . 'Full take' means it doesn't miss anything, and ingests the entirety of each circuit's capacity."

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, along with the "US Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs," three other DSD facilities, "the Shoal Bay Receiving Station near Darwin, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility at Geraldton and the naval communications station HMAS Harman outside Canberra," were identified as X-Keyscore "contributors." The paper also reported that "a new state-of-the-art data storage facility at HMAS Harman to support the Australian signals directorate and other Australian intelligence agencies" is currently under construction.

The Herald described the project as "an intelligence collection program" that "processes all signals before they are shunted off to various 'production lines' that deal with specific issues and the exploitation of different data types for analysis--variously code-named Nucleon (voice), Pinwale (video), Mainway (call records) and Marina (internet records). US intelligence expert William Arkin describes X-Keyscore as a 'national Intelligence collection mission system'."

Two of the Australian bases illustrated on the X-Keyscore map sit adjacent to major undersea cable sites transiting the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Cozy arrangements with Telstra and other firms however, hardly represent mere passive acceptance of terms and conditions laid out by the US government. On the contrary, these, and dozens of other agreements which have come to light, are emblematic of decades-long US corporate-state "public-private partnerships."

As Bloomberg reported last month, "thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with US national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence."

It's a two-way street, Bloomberg noted. Firms providing "US intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications" use it "to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries." In return, "companies are given quick warnings about threats that could affect their bottom line." Such sensitive data can also be used to undermine the position of their foreign competitors.

We now know, based on documents provided by Snowden, that the "infiltration" of computer networks by US secret state agencies are useful not only for filching military secrets and mass spying but also for economic and industrial espionage.

That point was driven home more than a decade ago in a paper prepared by journalist Duncan Campbell for the European Parliament.

"By the end of the 1990s," Campbell wrote, "the US administration claimed that intelligence activity against foreign companies had gained the US nearly $150 billion in exports."

"Although US intelligence officials and spokespeople have admitted using Comint [communications intelligence] against European companies . . . documents show that the CIA has been directly involved in obtaining competitor intelligence for business purposes."

At the time the Telstra pact was signed, the Australian telecommunications and internet giant was "50.1% owned" by the Australian government. Reach Global Services, is described in the document as "a joint venture indirectly owned 50% by Telstra" and "50% owned" by Hong Kong's Pacific Century CyberWorks Limited (PCCW).

With controlling interest in more than 40 undersea fiber optic cables, and with landing rights in global markets that include Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, North America and Europe, the joint venture was then the largest commercial telecommunications carrier in Asia with some 82,000 kilometers of undersea cables. Reach also operates international satellite systems that cover two-third's of the planet's surface.

Such assets would be prime targets of "Five Eyes" spy agencies under terms of the UKUSA Communications Intelligence Agreement.

Telstra and PCCW restructured their partnership in 2011, with the Australian firm now controlling the lion's share of an undersea cable network that stretches "more than 364,000 kilometres and connects more than 240 markets worldwide," the South Morning China Post reported. Inevitably, the restructuring will afford the US government an even greater opportunity for spying.

Network security agreements hammered out among undersea cable firms and the US government have profound implications for global commerce. Their geopolitical significance hasn't been lost on America's closet "allies."

The Guardian revealed last month that the US is "spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington." In addition to the EU mission, target lists include "the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey."

That list has since been supplemented by further disclosures.

Snowden told the South China Morning Post that NSA hacked into the "computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which owns one of the most extensive fibre optic submarine cable networks in the region."

Recently, the firm signed major deals with the Chinese mainland's "top mobile phone companies" and "owns more than 46,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cables."

According to the paper, Pacnet "cables connect its regional data centres across the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong, the mainland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. It also has offices in the US."

The South Morning China Post also disclosed that Tsinghua University, "China's premier seat of learning" has sustained extensive attacks on the school's "network backbones."

Available documents based on Snowden disclosures and other sources seem to suggest that President Obama's militaristic "pivot to Asia" is also an aggressive campaign to steal commercial and trade secrets from US imperialism's Asian rivals.

Whether or not these revelations will effect negotiations over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a NAFTA-style "free trade" agreement between the US and ten Pacific Rim nations, including Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Singapore--all prime US-UK targets of PRISM, TEMPORA and X-Keyscore--remains to be seen.

'Legal' License to Spy

If we have learned anything since Snowden's revelations began surfacing last month, it is that the US secret state relies on a body of "secret laws" overseen by a Star Chamber-like FISA court described in the polite language The New York Times as a "parallel Supreme Court," to do its dirty work.

Along with leaked NSA documents, published agreements between telecommunications firms, internet service providers and the US government should demolish the fiction that blanket surveillance is "legal," "limited in scope" or chiefly concerned with fighting "crime" and "terrorism."

Proclaiming that "US communications systems are essential to the ability of the US government to fulfill its responsibilities to the public to preserve the national security of the United States, to enforce the laws, and to maintain the safety of the public," the Telstra summary posted by Crikey should dispel any illusions on that score.

On the contrary, the agreement reveals the existence of a vast surveillance web linking private companies to the government's relentless drive, as The Washington Post explained, to "collect it all."

● All customer billing data to be stored for two years;
● Ability to provide to agencies any stored telecommunications or internet communications and comply with preservation requests;
● Ability to provide any stored metadata, billing data or subscriber information about US customers;
● They are not to comply with any foreign privacy laws that might lead to mandatory destruction of stored data;
● Plans and infrastructure to demonstrate other states cannot spy on US customers;
● They are not to comply with information requests from other countries without DoJ permission;
● A requirement to:

. . . designate points of contact within the United States with the authority and responsibility for accepting and overseeing the carrying out of Lawful US Process to conduct Electronic Surveillance of or relating to Domestic Communications carried by or through Domestic Communications Infrastructure; or relating to customers or subscribers of Domestic Communications Companies. The points of contact shall be assigned to Domestic Communications Companies security office(s) in the United States, shall be available twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week and shall be responsible for accepting service and maintaining the security of Classified Information and any Lawful US Process for Electronic Surveillance . . . The Points of contact shall be resident US citizens who are eligible for US security clearances.

In other words, an "internal corporate cell of American citizens," charged with providing confidential customer data to the secret state, as The Washington Post first reported.

Additional demands include:

● A requirement to keep such surveillance confidential, and to use US citizens "who meet high standards of trustworthiness for maintaining the confidentiality of Sensitive Information" to handle requests;
● A right for the FBI and the DoJ to conduct inspection visits of the companies' infrastructure and offices; and
● An annual compliance report, to be protected from Freedom of Information requests.

This is not a one-off as the other 27 Agreements published by Public Intelligence readily attest.

For example, the 31-page 2011 Agreement between the US government and Level 3 Communications, which operates in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, which acquired Global Crossing from from the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and Singapore Technologies Telemedia (the focus of The Washington Post's July 6 report), was expanded beyond the FBI and Department of Justice to include the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, NSA's "parent" agency.

As with the 2001 Telstra agreement, "Access" to Level 3's systems by governmental entities is defined as "the ability to physically or logically undertake any of the following actions: (a) read, divert, or otherwise obtain non-public information or technology from or about software, hardware, a system or a network; (b) add, edit or alter information or technology stored on or by software, hardware, a system or a network; and (c) alter the physical or logical state of software, hardware, a system or a network (e.g., turning it on or off, changing configuration, removing or adding components or connections)."

NSA, the principle US spy agency charged with obtaining, storing and analyzing COMINT/SIGINT "products, i.e., user data, has been handed virtually unlimited access to information flowing through Level 3 fiber optic cables as it enters the US.

This includes what is described as "Domestic Communications," content, not simply the metadata, of any phone call or email that transit Level 3 systems: "'Domestic Communications' means: (a) Wire Communications or Electronic Communications (whether stored or not) from one US location to another US location; and (b) the US portion of a Wire Communication or Electronic Communication (whether stored or not) that originates or terminates in the United States."

So much for President Obama's mendacious claim that "nobody is listening to your phone calls"!

Access to the entirety of customer records and communications is clearly spelled out in the section entitled "Electronic Surveillance."

Note: the "USC." provisions refer to (18) the Stored Communications Act which compels disclosure to the government of stored wire, electronic and transactional data; a provision that greatly weakened the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. 50 USC outlines the role of War and National Defense in the United States Code and includes "foreign intelligence," "electronic surveillance authorization without court order," "internal security," including the "control of subversive activities" and the "exercise of emergency powers and authorities" by the Executive Branch.

'Electronic Surveillance,' for the purposes of this Agreement, includes: (a) the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications as defined in 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510(1), (2), (4) and (12), respectively, and electronic surveillance as defined in 50 U.S.C. § 1801(f); (b) Access to stored wire or electronic communications, as referred to in 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.; (c) acquisition of dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information through pen register or trap and trace devices or other devices or features capable of acquiring such information pursuant to law as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 3121 et seq. and 50 U.S.C. § 1841 et seq.; (d) acquisition of location-related information concerning a service subscriber or facility; (e) preservation of any of the above information pursuant to 18 U.S.C.§ 2703(f); and (f) Access to, or acquisition, interception, or preservation of, wire, oral, or electronic communications or information as described in (a) through (e) above and comparable state laws.

Level 3 is further enjoined from disclosing what is described as "Sensitive Information," that is, "information that is not Classified Information regarding: (a) the persons or facilities that are the subjects of Lawful US Process; (b) the identity of the Government Authority or Government Authorities serving such Lawful US Process; (c) the location or identity of the line, circuit, transmission path, or other facilities or equipment used to conduct Electronic Surveillance; (d) the means of carrying out Electronic Surveillance."

In other words, we do the spying; you hand over it over and keep your mouths shut.

The electronic driftnet thrown over global communications is expedited by direct access to Level 3's equipment by the US government.

'Principal Equipment' means the primary electronic components of a submarine cable system, to include the hardware used at the NOC(s) [Network Operations Center], landing station(s) and the cable itself, such as servers, repeaters, submarine line terminal equipment (SLTE), system supervisory equipment (SSE), power feed equipment (PFE), tilt and shape equalizer units (TEQ/SEQ), optical distribution frames (ODF), and synchronous optical network (SONET), synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH), wave division multiplexing (WDM), dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM), coarse wave division multiplexing (CWDM) or optical carrier network (OCx) equipment, as applicable.

Who oversees the set-up? On paper it appears that Level 3 control their operations. However, the Agreement specifies that the firm must utilize "primary US NOCs for any Domestic Communications Infrastructure" and it "shall be maintained and remain within the United States and US territories, to be operated by Level 3, exclusively using Screened Personnel."

Who signs off on "screened personnel"? Why the US government of course, which raises the suspicion that corporate employees are little more than spook assets.

But here's where it gets interesting. "Level 3 may nonetheless use the United Kingdom NOC for routine day-to-day management of any of the Cable Systems as such management is in existence as of the Effective Date."

Why might that be the case, pray tell?

Could it be that fiber optic cables transiting the UK are already lovingly scrutinized by NSA's kissin' cousins across the pond? GCHQ, as The Guardian disclosed, is merrily ingesting "vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them" with the American agency.

Therefore, since UK undersea cable traffic is already under close "management" via the British agency's TEMPORA program, described as having the "'biggest internet access' of any member of the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance," it makes sense that Level 3 is allowed to "use the United Kingdom NOC" as a hub for its "Domestic Communications Infrastructure"!

In conclusion, these publicly available documents provide additional confirmation of how major corporations are empowering the US surveillance octopus.

By entering into devil's pacts with the world's "sole superpower," giant telcos and internet firms view the destruction of privacy rights as just another item on the balance sheet, a necessary cost of doing business in America.

And business is very good.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ECHELON Today: The Evolution of an NSA Black Program

People are shocked by the scope of secret state spying on their private communications, especially in light of documentary evidence leaked to media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

While the public is rightly angered by the illegal, unconstitutional nature of NSA programs which seize and store data for retrospective harvesting by intelligence and law enforcement officials, including the content of phone calls, emails, geolocational information, bank records, credit card purchases, travel itineraries, even medical records--in secret, and with little in the way of effective oversight--the historical context of how, and why, this vast spying apparatus came to be is often given short shrift.

Revelations about NSA spying didn't begin June 5, 2013 however, the day when The Guardian published a top secret FISA Court Order to Verizon, ordering the firm turn over the telephone records on millions of its customers "on an ongoing daily basis."

Before PRISM there was ECHELON: the top secret surveillance program whose all-encompassing "dictionaries" (high-speed computers powered by complex algorithms) ingest and sort key words and text scooped-up by a global network of satellites, from undersea cables and land-based microwave towers.

Past as Prologue

Confronted by a dizzying array of code-named programs, the casual observer will assume the spymasters running these intrusive operations are all-knowing mandarins with their fingers on the pulse of global events.

Yet, if disastrous US policies from Afghanistan and Iraq to the ongoing capitalist economic meltdown tell us anything, it is that the American superpower, in President Nixon's immortal words, really is "a pitiful, helpless giant."

In fact, the same programs used to surveil the population at large have also been turned inward by the National Security State against itself and targets military and political elites who long thought themselves immune from such close attention.

Coupled with Snowden's disclosures, those of former NSA officer Russell Tice (first reported here and here), revealed that the agency--far in excess of the dirt collected by FBI spymaster J. Edgar Hoover in his "secret and confidential" black files--has compiled dossiers on their alleged controllers, for political leverage and probably for blackmail purposes to boot.

While Tice's allegations certainly raised eyebrows and posed fundamental questions about who is really in charge of American policy--elected officials or unaccountable securocrats with deep ties to private security corporations--despite being deep-sixed by US media, they confirm previous reporting about the agency.

When investigative journalist Duncan Campbell first blew the lid off NSA's ECHELON program, his 1988 piece for New Statesman revealed that a whistleblower, Margaret Newsham, a software designer employed by Lockheed at the giant agency listening post at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, England, stepped forward and told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in closed session, that NSA was using its formidable intercept capabilities "to locate the telephone or other messages of target individuals."

Campbell's reporting was followed in 1996 by New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager's groundbreaking book, Secret Power, the first detailed account of NSA's global surveillance system. A summary of Hager's findings can be found in the 1997 piece that appeared in CovertAction Quarterly.

As Campbell was preparing that 1988 article, a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer alleged that arch-conservative US Senator Strom Thurman was one target of agency phone intercepts, raising fears in political circles that "NSA has restored domestic, electronic, surveillance programmes," said to have been dialed-back in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Ironically enough, congressional efforts to mitigate abuses by the intelligence agencies exposed by the Church and Pike Committees in the 1970s, resulted in the 1978 creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. However, as The New York Times reported July 7, that court "in more than a dozen classified rulings . . . has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans," a "parallel Supreme Court" whose rulings are beyond legal challenge.

In an 88-page report on ECHELON published in 2000 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) Newsham said that when she worked on the development of SILKWORTH at the secret US base, described as "a system for processing information relayed from signals intelligence satellites," she told Campbell and other reporters, including CBS News' 60 Minutes, that "she witnessed and overheard" one of Thurman's intercepted phone calls.

Like Thomas Drake, the senior NSA official prosecuted by the Obama administration under the 1917 Espionage Act, for information he provided The Baltimore Sun over widespread waste, fraud and abuse in the agency's failed Trailblazer program, Newsham had testified before Congress and filed a lawsuit against Lockheed over charges of sexual harassment, "corruption and mis-spending on other US government 'black' projects."

A year earlier, in a 1999 on the record interview with the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Newsham spoke to journalists Bo Elkjaer and Kenan Seeberg, telling them of her "constant fear" that "certain elements" within the US secret state would "try to silence her"; a point not lost on Edward Snowden today.

"As a result," the newspaper reported, "she sleeps with a loaded pistol under her mattress, and her best friend is Mr. Gunther--a 120-pound German shepherd that was trained to be a guard and attack dog by a good friend in the Nevada State Police."

"To me," the whistleblower said, "there are only two issues at stake here: right or wrong. And the longer I worked on the clandestine surveillance projects, the more I could see that they were not only illegal, but also unconstitutional."

"Even then," between 1974 and 1984 when she worked on ECHELON, it "was very big and sophisticated."

"As early as 1979 we could track a specific person and zoom in on his phone conversation while he was communicating," Newsham averred. "Since our satellites could in 1984 film a postage stamp lying on the ground, it is almost impossible to imagine how all-encompassing the system must be today."

When queried about "which part of the system is named Echelon," Newsham told the reporters: "The computer network itself. The software programs are known as SILKWORTH and SIRE, and one of the most important surveillance satellites is named VORTEX. It intercepts things like phone conversations."

Despite evidence presented in her congressional testimony about these illegal operations, "no substantive investigation took place, and no report was made to Congress," Campbell later wrote.

"Since then," the British journalist averred, "investigators have subpoenaed other witnesses and asked them to provide the complete plans and manuals of the ECHELON system and related projects. The plans and blueprints are said to show that targeting of US political figures would not occur by accident, but was designed into the system from the start." (emphasis added)

This would explain why members of Congress, the federal Judiciary and the Executive Branch itself, as Tice alleges, tread lightly when it comes to crossing NSA. However, as information continues to emerge about these privacy-killing programs it should also be clear that the agency's prime targets are not "terrorists," judges or politicians, but the American people themselves.

In fact, as Snowden stated in a powerful message published by WikiLeaks: "In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised--and it should be."

How did we get here? Is there a direct line from Cold War-era programs which targeted the Soviet Union and their allies, and which now, in the age of capitalist globalization, the epoch of planet-wide theft and plunder, now targets the entire world's population?

ECHELON's Roots: The UKUSA Agreement

Lost in the historical mists surrounding the origins of the Cold War, the close collaboration amongst Britain and the United States as they waged war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, by war's end had morphed into a permanent intelligence-military alliance which predated the founding of NATO. With the defeat of the Axis powers, a new global division of labor was in the offing led by the undisputed superpower which emerged from the conflagration, the United States.

Self-appointed administrator over Europe's old colonial holdings across Africa, Asia and the Middle East (the US already viewed Latin America as its private export dumping ground and source for raw materials), the US used its unparalleled position to benefit the giant multinational American firms grown larger and more profitable than ever as a result of wartime economic mobilization managed by the state.

By 1946, the permanent war economy which later came to be known as the Military-Industrial Complex, a semi-command economy directed by corporate executives, based on military, but also on emerging high-tech industries bolstered by taxpayer-based government investments, was already firmly entrenched and formed the political-economic base on which the so-called "American Century" was constructed.

While resource extraction and export market domination remained the primary goal of successive US administrations (best summarized by the slogan, "the business of government is business"), advances in technology in general and telecommunications in particular, meant that the system's overlords required an intelligence apparatus that was always "on" as it "captured" the flood of electronic signals coursing across the planet.

The secret British and US agencies responsible for cracking German, Japanese and Russian codes during the war found themselves in a quandary. Should they declare victory and go home or train their sights on the new (old) adversary--their former ally, the Soviet Union--but also on home grown and indigenous communist and socialist movements more generally?

In opting for the latter, the UK-US wartime partnership evolved into a broad agreement to share signals and communications intelligence (SIGINT and COMINT), a set-up which persists today.

In 1946, Britain and the United States signed the United Kingdom-United States of America Agreement (UKUSA), a multilateral treaty to share signals intelligence amongst the two nations and Britain's Commonwealth partners, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Known as the "Five Eyes" agreement, the treaty was such a closely-guarded secret that Australia's Prime Minister was kept in the dark until 1973!

In 2010, the British National Archives released previously classified Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) files that provide an important historical overview of the agreement. Also in 2010, the National Security Agency followed suit and published formerly classified files from their archives. Accompanying NSA's release was a 1955 amended version of the treaty.

It's secretive nature is clearly spelled out: "It will be contrary to this Agreement to reveal its existence to any third party unless otherwise agreed by the two parties."

In 2005, 2009 and 2013, The National Security Archive published a series of previously classified documents obtained from NSA under the Freedom of Information Act that revealed agency thinking on a range of subjects, from global surveillance to cyberwar.

What we have learned from these sources and reporting by Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager, are that the five agencies feeding the surveillance behemoth, America's NSA, Britain's GCHQ, Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Australia's Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), are subdivided into first and second tier partners, with the US, as befitting a hyperpower, forming the "1st party" and the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand forming "2nd party" partners.

Under terms of UKUSA, intelligence "products" are defined as "01. Collection of traffic. 02. Acquisition of communications documents and equipment. 03. Traffic analysis. 04. Cryptanalysis. 05. Decryption and translation. 06. Acquisition of information regarding communications organizations, procedures, practices and equipment."

"Such exchange," NSA informed us, "will be unrestricted on all work undertaken except when specifically excluded from the agreement at the request of either party and with the agreement of the other."

"It is the intention of each party," we're told, "to limit such exceptions to the absolute minimum and to exercise no restrictions other than those reported and mutually agreed upon."

This certainly leaves wide latitude for mischief as we learned with the Snowden disclosures.

Amid serious charges that "Five Eyes" were illegally seizing industrial and trade secrets from "3rd party" European partners such as France and Germany, detailed in the European Parliament's 2001 ECHELON report, it should be clear by now that since its launch in 1968 when satellite communications became a practical reality, ECHELON has evolved into a global surveillance complex under US control.

The Global Surveillance System Today

The echoes of those earlier secret programs reverberate in today's headlines.

Last month, The Guardian reported that the "collection of traffic" cited in UKUSA has been expanded to GCHQ's "ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months."

Then on July 6, The Washington Post disclosed that NSA has tapped directly into those fiber optic cables, as AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein described to Wired Magazine in 2006, and now scoops-up petabyte scale communications flowing through the US internet backbone. The agency was able to accomplish this due to the existence of "an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances."

"Among their jobs documents show, was ensuring that surveillance requests got fulfilled quickly and confidentially."

Following up on July 10, the Post published a new PRISM slide from the 41-slide deck provided to the paper by Edward Snowden.

The slide revealed that "two types of collection" now occur. One is the PRISM program that collects information from technology firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft. The second source is "a separate category labeled 'Upstream,' described as accessing 'communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past'."

Recently, Der Spiegel, reported that NSA averred the agency "does NOT target its 2nd party partners, nor request that 2nd parties do anything that is inherently illegal for NSA to do." This is an outright falsehood exposed by former Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE) officer Mike Frost.

In a 1997 CovertAction Quarterly exposé, Frost recounted how "CSE operated alone or joined with NSA or GCHQ to: intercept communications in other countries from the confines of Canadian embassies around the world with the knowledge of the ambassador; aid politicians, political parties, or factions in an allied country to gain partisan advantage; spy on its allies; spy on its own citizens; and perform 'favors' that helped its allies evade domestic laws against spying."

"Throughout it all," Frost insisted, "I was trained and controlled by US intelligence which told us what to do and how to do it."

Everyone else, Der Spiegel reports, is fair game. "For all other countries, including the group of around 30 nations that are considered to be 3rd party partners, however, this protection does not apply. 'We can, and often do, target the signals of most 3rd party foreign partners,' the NSA boasts in an internal presentation."

It should also be clear that targeting isn't strictly limited to the governments and economic institutions of "3rd party foreign partners," but extends to the private communications of their citizens. Der Spiegel, citing documents supplied by Snowden, reported that the agency "gathered metadata from some 15 million telephone conversations and 10 million Internet datasets." The newsmagazine noted that "the Americans are collecting from up to half a billion communications a month in Germany," describing the surveillance as "a complete structural acquisition of data."

Despite hypocritical protests by European governments, on the contrary, Snowden disclosed that those "3rd party" partners are joined at the hip with their "Five Eyes" cousins.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Snowden was asked if "German authorities or German politicians [are] involved in the NSA surveillance system?"

"Yes, of course. We're in bed together with the Germans the same as with most other Western countries. For example, we tip them off when someone we want is flying through their airports (that we for example, have learned from the cell phone of a suspected hacker's girlfriend in a totally unrelated third country--and they hand them over to us. They don't ask to justify how we know something, and vice versa, to insulate their political leaders from the backlash of knowing how grievously they're violating global privacy."

Disclosing new information on how UKUSA functions today, Snowden told the German newsmagazine: "In some cases, the so-called Five Eye Partners go beyond what NSA itself does. For instance, the UK's General [sic] Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has a system called TEMPORA."

"TEMPORA," the whistleblower averred, "is the signals intelligence community's first 'full-take' Internet buffer that doesn't care about content type and pays only marginal attention to the Human Rights Act. It snarfs everything, in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit."

"Right now," Snowden said, "the buffer can hold three days of traffic, but that's being improved. Three days may not sound like much, but remember that that's not metadata. 'Full-take' means it doesn't miss anything, and ingests the entirety of each circuit's capacity. If you send a single ICMP packet and it routes through the UK, we get it. If you download something and the CDN (Content Delivery Network) happens to serve from the UK, we get it. If your sick daughter's medical records get processed at a London call center . . . well, you get the idea."

We do; and thanks to Edward Snowden we now know that everyone is a target.

Monday, July 1, 2013

New Documents Shed Light on NSA's Dragnet Surveillance

With the Obama administration in full damage control mode over revelations of blanket surveillance of global electronic communications, new documents published by The Guardian, including the draft of a 2009 report by the NSA's Inspector General marked Top Secret and a Secret 2007 Justice Department memo prepared for then US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, show that "a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata 'every 90 days'."

An unnamed "senior administration official" confirmed the existence of a Bush-era surveillance program which gobbled-up "vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans," but claimed, without evidence, that "it ended in 2001," according to The Guardian.

Early last month, the British newspaper began publishing documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, including a Top Secret FISA court order to Verizon Business Services, which requires the firm "on an ongoing, daily basis" to hand over information on all telephone calls within its system.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA's "monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions." The secret state's spying initiative "also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., records from Internet-service providers and purchase information."

Days later, The Washington Post revealed that the Bush administration's "warrantless wiretapping" program known as STELLAR WIND, had been succeeded by four "collection programs" two of which, MAINWAY and MARINA, "process trillions of 'metadata' records for storage and analysis."

Additional programs, the Post reported, operating "on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content," one of which "intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called NUCLEON."

Although the news outlets principally responsible for bringing these stories to light, principally The Guardian, Washington Post, South China Morning Post, and now Der Spiegel, have not (as yet) published complete sets of NSA documents, and their reporting has barely scratched the surface of content-siphoning deep packet inspection (DPI) programs for internet and telephone surveillance (indeed, PRISM may be a subset of larger and more pernicious programs that collect, analyze and store everything), what we have learned so far is deeply troubling and pose grave threats to civil liberties.

New PRISM Slides, More Questions

Filling in some of the blanks, on June 29 The Washington Post published four additional PRISM slides from the 41-slide deck provided to The Guardian and Post by Edward Snowden.

Confirming what civil libertarians, journalists and political analysts have long maintained, NSA can and probably does "acquire" anything an individual analyst might request as Snowden averred. This includes, according to new information provided by the Post: chats, email, file transfers, internet telephone, login/ID, metadata, photos, social networking, stored data in the cloud, video, video conferencing.

If that isn't a surveillance dragnet, then words fail.

Recall, that previous reporting disclosed that major US internet and high tech firms, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple gave NSA "direct access" to their systems.

"The program," according to The Guardian, "facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US."

"It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants," a near probability in this writer's opinion.

In a report that appeared the same day, The Washington Post disclosed that NSA and the FBI "are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets," and that the agency "s accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers."

Although the firms all denied that they hand over customer data to the government, their self-serving claims are undercut by evidence that NSA-cleared company personnel, including "collection managers," send "content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations," rather than directly to company servers.

"Under Prism," the Associated Press reported, "the delivery process varied by company."

"Google, for instance, says it makes secure file transfers. Others use contractors or have set up stand-alone systems. Some have set up user interfaces making it easier for the government, according to a security expert familiar with the process."

"With Prism," AP reported, "the government gets a user's entire email inbox. Every email, including contacts with American citizens, becomes government property."

"Once the NSA has an inbox, it can search its huge archives for information about everyone with whom the target communicated. All those people can be investigated, too."

The slides published June 29 shed some light on how the process works. We learn for example that when an analyst "tasks" PRISM for information on a new "target," it is automatically passed on to a supervisor who "who reviews the 'selectors' or search terms. The supervisor must endorse the analyst's 'reasonable belief,' defined as 51 percent confidence, that the specified target is a foreign national who is overseas at the time of collection."

Tasking orders can be sent to multiple sources, "for example, to a private company and to an NSA access point that taps into the Internet's main gateway switches." (for background see: Mark Klein, Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine, Klein's affidavit in EFF's lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T and his groundbreaking 2006 piece for Wired Magazine).

The FBI "uses government equipment on private company property to retrieve matching information from a participating company, such as Microsoft or Yahoo and pass it without further review to the NSA." (see Verizon whistleblower Babak Pasdar's affidavit on how FBI "tasking" is accomplished via its Quantico circuit).

"For stored communications, but not for live surveillance" we're informed that the Bureau's Electronic Communications Surveillance Unit (ECSU) "consults its own databases to make sure the selectors do not match known Americans."

If this is what the Bureau is now claiming, it is disingenuous at best. In fact, as Antifascist Calling reported back in 2009, the FBI's Investigative Data Warehouse (IDW), a virtual Library of Babel, is a content management and data mining system with the ability to access and analyze aggregated data from some fifty hitherto separate datasets. That the Bureau would feel compelled to "minimize" domestic information it provides to a "sister" agency beggars belief.

In fact, one of the new PRISM slides reveal that from "the FBI's interception unit on the premises of private companies, the information is passed to one or more 'customers' at the NSA, CIA or FBI."

"Depending on the company," Barton Gellman and Todd Lindeman report, "a tasking may return e-mails, attachments, address books, calendars, files stored in the cloud, text or audio or video chats and 'metadata' that identify the locations, devices used and other information about a target."

Elapsed times from "tasking to response" from the above-named firms or other "partners" such as banks, credit card companies, etc. range from "minutes to hours." An unnamed "senior intelligence official" told the Post, "Much as we might wish otherwise, the latency is not zero."

"After communications information is acquired," the data is "processed and analyzed by specialized systems that handle voice, text, video and 'digital network information' that includes the locations and unique device signatures of targets."

We also learn how some of these code named systems function.

For example, PRINTURA is described as a tool "which automates the traffic flow." The Post reports that "the same FBI-run equipment sends the search results to the NSA." Once it is received, in bulk, "PRINTURA sorts and dispatches the data stream through a complex sequence of systems that extract and process voice, text, video and metadata."

Once dispatched from PRINTURA, described as a "librarian and traffic cop," SCISSORS and Protocol Exploitation "sort data types for analysis in NUCLEON (voice), PINWALE (video), MAINWAY (call records) and MARINA (internet records)."

While the Post claims that "systems identified as FALLOUT and CONVEYANCE appear to be the final filtering to reduce the intake of information about Americans," information provided by NSA whistleblower William Binney dispute such assertions.

In fact, Binney told investigative journalist James Bamford for his Wired Magazine piece on NSA's giant Utah Data Center, that the agency "could have installed its tapping gear at the nation's cable landing stations--the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law."

"Instead," the former cofounder of the agency's Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (SARC) told Bamford that NSA "chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country--large, windowless buildings known as switches--thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US."

"The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. 'I think there's 10 to 20 of them,' Binney says. 'That's not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast'."

In other words, NSA's network of "secret rooms" were installed at key junctures that would facilitate, not "minimize" wholesale domestic surveillance.

Expanding on just how intrusive NSA "collection" programs are, Binney told The New Yorker in a Jane Mayer piece on the Obama regime's prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, that a surveillance program he helped design as SARC director, ThinThread, was "bastardized" after 9/11 and "stripped of privacy controls" that would filter out Americans' communications.

"'It was my brainchild,' Binney told Mayer. "'But they removed the protections, the anonymization process. When you remove that, you can target anyone.' He said that although he was not 'read in' to the new secret surveillance program, 'my people were brought in, and they told me, 'Can you believe they're doing this? They're getting billing records on US citizens! They're putting pen registers'--logs of dialed phone numbers--'on everyone in the country!'"

And they continue to do so today without one iota of oversight from a thoroughly compromised Congress.

New Programs Exposed

The programs described above all evolved from the Bush administration's so-called President's Surveillance Program, PSP, which has continued under Obama. As Antifascist Calling reported in 2009, citing a declassified 38-page report by inspectors general of the CIA, NSA, the Departments of Defense, Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the report failed to disclose what these programs actually do, claiming they are "too sensitive" for an "unclassified setting."

Shrouded beneath impenetrable layers of secrecy and deceit, these undisclosed programs lie at the dark heart of the state's war against the American people.

For example, the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General described FBI participation in the PSP as that of a "passive recipient of intelligence collected under the program." Recent revelations by Edward Snowden expose such statements as bald-faced lies. And when the OIG claimed that Bureau efforts "to improve cooperation with the NSA to enhance the usefulness of PSP-derived information to FBI agents," that too, is a craven misrepresentation given what we now know about the key role the FBI plays in NSA's PRISM program.

However, the unclassified version of NSA's Inspector General's report on the PSP published by The Guardian paints a far-different picture.

A close reading of the document reveals that a federal judge sitting on the FISA would approve a bulk collection order for metadata "every 90 days," as long as it "involved" the "communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States".

"Eventually," Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman reported, the agency "gained authority to 'analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States'."

Although the administration now claims that specific program ended in 2011, online collection of data on Americans continues today.

Last week The Guardian reported that NSA's Special Source Operations (SSO) directorate running PRISM is collecting and analyzing "significant amounts of data from US communications systems in the course of monitoring foreign targets."

"The NSA," Greenwald and Ackerman disclosed, "called it the 'One-End Foreign (1EF) solution'."

That program, code named EVIL OLIVE, was intended to broaden "the scope" of what it is able to surveil and relied, "legally, on 'FAA Authority', a reference to the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act that relaxed surveillance restrictions."

"This new system, SSO stated in December, enables vastly increased collection by the NSA of internet traffic. 'The 1EF solution is allowing more than 75% of the traffic to pass through the filter,' the SSO December document reads. 'This milestone not only opened the aperture of the access but allowed the possibility for more traffic to be identified, selected and forwarded to NSA repositories'."

After EVIL OLIVE's "deployment, traffic has literally doubled."

Referencing another NSA collection program, this one code named SHELL TRUMPET, an SSO official wrote that the program had just "processed its One Trillionth metadata record."

"Explaining that the five-year old program 'began as a near-real-time metadata analyzer ... for a classic collection system', the SSO official noted: 'In its five year history, numerous other systems from across the Agency have come to use ShellTrumpet's processing capabilities for performance monitoring' and other tasks, such as 'direct email tip alerting'," The Guardian reported.

These, and hitherto as yet unknown programs, are advancing by leaps and bounds due to technological breakthroughs, the result of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars showered on the agency in wake of the 9/11 provocation. As Greenwald and Ackerman reported, "almost half of those trillion pieces of internet metadata were processed in 2012, the document detailed: 'though it took five years to get to the one trillion mark, almost half of this volume was processed in this calendar year'."

"Another SSO entry," this one dated February 6, 2013, "described ongoing plans to expand metadata collection. A joint surveillance collection operation with an unnamed partner agency yielded a new program 'to query metadata' that was 'turned on in the Fall 2012'."

Two additional programs, code named MOON LIGHT PATH AND SPINNERET, "are planned to be added by September 2013." Curiously enough, this is when NSA's Utah Data Center is slated to "go live."

In fact, these programs and their siblings are useful not simply for harvesting metadata, but for "collecting" and storing all electronic communications, including their content; hence the rather circumspect reference to "direct email tip alerting."

Fully a transatlantic affair, Greenwald and Ackerman noted that another SSO entry dated September 21, 2012 revealed that a program called TRANSIENT THURIBLE is "'a new Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) managed XKeyScore (XKS) Deep Dive was declared operational.' The entry states that GCHQ 'modified' an existing program so the NSA could 'benefit' from what GCHQ harvested."

There is much we do not yet know about these programs, how "collected" data is exploited by government agencies, nor the present and future implications for civil liberties and privacy in the United States and globally. What we do know however, is that the Obama administration, including their national security spokespeople and their media and political apologists are lying.