Thursday, October 31, 2013

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

I wonder if anyone has done any detailed forensic analysis on the documents that Snowden is releasing (which may be different than the ones he stole).  I wonder if he has not doctored the documents in some way to generate further controversies.  It seems like we are going to see quite an NSA versus Google/Yahoo dust up here.  But if the fight is going to be based on Snowden's documents perhaps if they are doctored that should be exposed.  Of course on the other hand to effectively expose doctored documents and to prove it would require release of other classified information that might also damage national security.  Snowden is in a win-win situation then because he (and Greenfield) can doctor anything to suit his agenda and he cannot be challenged.  A real Catch-22 potentially.
V/R
Dave

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, Published: October 30


The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — including “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters . From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.

In a statement, the NSA said it is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

“NSA applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons — minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination,” it said.

In a statement, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said the company has “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping” and has not provided the government with access to its systems.

“We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform,” he said.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said, “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

Under PRISM, the NSA gathers huge volumes of online communications records by legally compelling U.S. technology companies, including Yahoo and Google, to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms. That program, which was first disclosed by The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper in Britain, is authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and overseen by the Foreign ­Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

Intercepting communications overseas has clear advantages for the NSA, with looser restrictions and less oversight. NSA documents about the effort refer directly to “full take,” “bulk access” and “high volume” operations on Yahoo and Google networks. Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.

Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and the FISC has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.

John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it is obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.

“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers, and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA,” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
(Continued at the link below)

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