Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners - News from the Associate Director, Security Studies Program
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
U.S. Outlines N.S.A.’s Culling of Data for All Domestic Calls
Since it references the Guardian's release of the classified briefing on the NSA program. Those on government computers probably should not click on the hotlink's to the Guardian and the 32 page classified briefing it published on it s web site. But there will be no avoiding these reports.
I am sure Greenwald and the Guardian released this information to offset the USG's release. of NSA information today
But this brings up a bigger issue. This is going to be all over the news shortly. It is already on the front page web site of the NY Times in is posted below. There will be no avoiding this on the internet. We will see this reported over and over again and we will lose a lot of government productivity trying to avoid any connection to it and then we will have the government internet police looking for those on government systems who have looked at this stuff. Woe be it for someone to actually get brought up on charges for inadvertently accessing these articles. Snowden and Greenwald are going to have the last laugh as they add friction to the well oiled government machine! :-) We really do need our government to come up with new guidance to keep up with the times and how to address these classified leaks in the global information network. V/R Dave
July 31, 2013
U.S. Outlines N.S.A.’s Culling of Data for All Domestic Calls
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday released formerly classified documents outlining a once-secret program of the National Security Agency that is collecting records of all domestic phone calls in the United States, as a newly leaked N.S.A. document surfaced showing how the agency spies on Web browsing and other Internet activity abroad.
Together, the new round of disclosures shed even more light on the scope of the United States government’s secret surveillance programs, which have been dragged into public view and debate by leaks from the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden.
The documents released by the government, meanwhile, include an April ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that supported a secondary order — also leaked by Mr. Snowden — requiring a Verizon subsidiary to turn over all of its customers’ phone logs for a three-month period.
It said the government may access the logs only when an executive branch official determines that there are “facts giving rise to a reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the number searched is associated with terrorism.
The releases also included two formerly classified briefing papers to Congress from 2009 and 2011, when the provision of the Patriot Act that the court relied on to issue that order was up for reauthorization. The papers outlined the bulk collection of “metadata” logging all domestic phone calls and e-mails of Americans and are portrayed as an “early warning system” that allowed the government to quickly see who was linked to a terrorism suspect.
“Both of these programs operate on a very large scale,” the 2011 briefing paper said, followed by something that is redacted, and then: “However, as described below, only a tiny fraction of such records are ever viewed by N.S.A. intelligence analysts.”
Both programs traced back to the surveillance efforts the Bush administration secretly started after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and which initially operated outside statutory authority or court oversight. The Bush administration later obtained orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to continue them.
The Obama administration has said it shut down the program that collected e-mail “metadata” in 2011, but it is not clear whether such collection has continued under a different program.
The newly disclosed XKeyscore presentation focuses in particular on Internet activities, including chats and Web site browsing activities, as intelligence analysts search for terrorist cells by looking at “anomalous events” like who is using encryption in Iran or “searching the web for suspicious stuff.”
In contrast to the domestic-call tracking program, the example cited in the XKeyscore presentation — which said it had generated intelligence that resulted in the capture of more than 300 terrorists — appeared to be focused on overseas activity.
A map showed 150 network sites around the world at which the N.S.A. is collecting that information; it is not clear whether the governments in those places are aware of the spying.
The volume of data is so vast that most of it is stored for only three days, the presentation said, although “metadata” — information showing log-ins and server activity, but not content — is stored for a month.
Several of the pages on the presentation were redacted by The Guardian.
But the presentation shows that while much of the focus from Mr. Snowden’s revelations so far has been on communications — whether calls or e-mails — that are linked, directly or indirectly, to a known suspect, the N.S.A. is also collecting and searching through massive amounts of Web-browsing activity.
“A large amount of time spent on the Web is performing actions that are anonymous,” the presentation explains, saying that the XKeyscore system can extract and store retrospective activity from “raw unselected bulk traffic.”
One example of how analysts might use the system is to search for whenever someone has started up a “virtual private network” in a particular country of interest; VPNs are pipelines that add greater security to online communications. N.S.A. analysts are able to use the system to extract the activity retrospectively from “raw unselected bulk traffic” and then decrypt it to “discover the users.”
It also cited using the system to locate a target who speaks German but is known to be in Pakistan by looking for German-language Internet activity in that country, or to uncover where and by whom a Microsoft Word document was created that had passed through several users’ hands.
Yet another slide said: “My target uses Google Maps to scope target locations — can I use this information to determine his e-mail address? What about the Web searches — do any stand out and look suspicious?”
At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, expressed deep skepticism about the domestic phone records program. He criticized intelligence officials and defenders of the program for misleadingly saying it helped prevent 54 terrorist events, a number that conflates the usefulness of N.S.A. surveillance activities targeted at noncitizens abroad with the usefulness of the database of Americans’ phone calls.
A classified list of “terrorist events” that N.S.A. surveillance helped to prevent, he said, “simply does not reflect dozens or even several terrorist plots” that the domestic call log program “helped thwart or prevent, let alone 54, as some have suggested.”
Citing the “massive privacy implications” of the program, Mr. Leahy said: “If this program is not effective it has to end. So far I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen.”
But Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who is also on the judiciary panel, said that while the program could be changed with greater restrictions and safeguards, it should be preserved because it would place the nation “in jeopardy” to eliminate it.