THE GUARDIAN by GLENN GREENWALD
XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’
• XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data
• NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
• Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
• NSA’s XKeyscore program – read one of the presentations
Glenn Greenwald, theguardian.com, Wednesday 31 July 2013 08.56 EDT
One presentation claims the XKeyscore program covers ‘nearly everything a typical user does on the internet’
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.
The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA‘s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.
Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.
Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person‘, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.
One training slide illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst’s ability to query the databases at any time.
The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a “selector” in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.
Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.
One document notes that this is because “strong selection [search by email address] itself gives us only a very limited capability” because “a large amount of time spent on the web is performing actions that are anonymous.”
The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.
Analysts are warned that searching the full database for content will yield too many results to sift through. Instead they are advised to use the metadata also stored in the databases to narrow down what to review.
A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc”.
In a second Guardian interview in June, Snowden elaborated on his statement about being able to read any individual’s email if he had their email address. He said the claim was based in part on the email search capabilities of XKeyscore, which Snowden says he was authorized to use while working as a Booz Allen contractor for the NSA.
One top-secret document describes how the program “searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents”, including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines” and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites”.
To search for emails, an analyst using XKS enters the individual’s email address into a simple online search form, along with the “justification” for the search and the time period for which the emails are sought.
The analyst then selects which of those returned emails they want to read by opening them in NSA reading software.
The system is similar to the way in which NSA analysts generally can intercept the communications of anyone they select, including, as one NSA document put it, “communications that transit the United States and communications that terminate in the United States”.
One document, a top secret 2010 guide describing the training received by NSA analysts for general surveillance under the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, explains that analysts can begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications. Once options on the pull-down menus are selected, their target is marked for electronic surveillance and the analyst is able to review the content of their communications:
Chats, browsing history and other internet activity
Beyond emails, the XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor a virtually unlimited array of other internet activities, including those within social media.
An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.
An analyst can monitor such Facebook chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.
Analysts can search for internet browsing activities using a wide range of information, including search terms entered by the user or the websites viewed.
As one slide indicates, the ability to search HTTP activity by keyword permits the analyst access to what the NSA calls “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”.
The XKeyscore program also allows an analyst to learn the IP addresses of every person who visits any website the analyst specifies.
The quantity of communications accessible through programs such as XKeyscore is staggeringly large. One NSA report from 2007 estimated that there were 850bn “call events” collected and stored in the NSA databases, and close to 150bn internet records. Each day, the document says, 1-2bn records were added.
William Binney, a former NSA mathematician, said last year that the agency had “assembled on the order of 20tn transactions about US citizens with other US citizens”, an estimate, he said, that “only was involving phone calls and emails”. A 2010 Washington Post article reported that “every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7bn emails, phone calls and other type of communications.”
The XKeyscore system is continuously collecting so much internet data that it can be stored only for short periods of time. Content remains on the system for only three to five days, while metadata is stored for 30 days. One document explains: “At some sites, the amount of data we receive per day (20+ terabytes) can only be stored for as little as 24 hours.”
To solve this problem, the NSA has created a multi-tiered system that allows analysts to store “interesting” content in other databases, such as one named Pinwale which can store material for up to five years.
It is the databases of XKeyscore, one document shows, that now contain the greatest amount of communications data collected by the NSA.
In 2012, there were at least 41 billion total records collected and stored in XKeyscore for a single 30-day period.
Legal v technical restrictions
While the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008 requires an individualized warrant for the targeting of US persons, NSA analysts are permitted to intercept the communications of such individuals without a warrant if they are in contact with one of the NSA’s foreign targets.
The ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, told the Guardian last month that national security officials expressly said that a primary purpose of the new law was to enable them to collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without individualized warrants.
“The government doesn’t need to ‘target’ Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications,” said Jaffer. “The government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans” when targeting foreign nationals for surveillance.
An example is provided by one XKeyscore document showing an NSA target in Tehran communicating with people in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and New York.
In recent years, the NSA has attempted to segregate exclusively domestic US communications in separate databases. But even NSA documents acknowledge that such efforts are imperfect, as even purely domestic communications can travel on foreign systems, and NSA tools are sometimes unable to identify the national origins of communications.
Moreover, all communications between Americans and someone on foreign soil are included in the same databases as foreign-to-foreign communications, making them readily searchable without warrants.
Some searches conducted by NSA analysts are periodically reviewed by their supervisors within the NSA. “It’s very rare to be questioned on our searches,” Snowden told the Guardian in June, “and even when we are, it’s usually along the lines of: ‘let’s bulk up the justification’.”
In a letter this week to senator Ron Wyden, director of national intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that NSA analysts have exceeded even legal limits as interpreted by the NSA in domestic surveillance.
Acknowledging what he called “a number of compliance problems”, Clapper attributed them to “human error” or “highly sophisticated technology issues” rather than “bad faith”.
However, Wyden said on the Senate floor on Tuesday: “These violations are more serious than those stated by the intelligence community, and are troubling.”
In a statement to the Guardian, the NSA said: “NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.
“XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA‘s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.
“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks … In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring.”
“Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.
“These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad.”
New Snowden leak: NSA program taps all you do online – CNN International (edition.cnn.com)
Snowden Reveals NSA’s ‘Widest Reaching System’ (newser.com)
No comments yet.
Website under construction
Just Me, Administrator
Blogs I Follow
- November 2014 (1)
- October 2014 (4)
- September 2014 (4)
- August 2014 (18)
- April 2014 (1)
- March 2014 (7)
- December 2013 (6)
- November 2013 (22)
- October 2013 (8)
- September 2013 (12)
- August 2013 (27)
- July 2013 (33)
- June 2013 (24)
- May 2013 (78)
- April 2013 (64)
- March 2013 (20)
- February 2013 (9)
- January 2013 (30)
- December 2012 (51)
- November 2012 (53)
- October 2012 (115)
- September 2012 (62)
- August 2012 (47)
- July 2012 (24)
- June 2012 (30)
- THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW & “OBAMACARE WRITTEN TO FOOL STUPID AMERICANS” November 12, 2014Obamacare Architect Jonathan Gruber: We Lied and Counted on the Stupidity of the American VoterNovember 10, 2014 BEGIN TRANSCRIPT RUSH: Have you seen or heard the audio snippet of the actual author of Obamacare? His name is Jonathan Gruber. He is a professor at MIT, a professor of economics. He wrote both Romneycare and he […]duckyack
- BREITBART BIG GOVERNMENT by AWR HAWKINS October 30, 2014Students Suspended For Holding Airsoft Guns In Photo Taken In Living Room http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/10/29/Students-Get-Suspended-For-Holding-Airsoft-Guns-In-Photo-Taken-In-Living-Room by AWR Hawkins 29 Oct 2014 Two Massachusetts high school sweethearts—Tito Velez and Jamie Pereira—are suspended from school after posing with Airsoft toy […]duckyack
- BREITBART BIG GOVERNMENT “VIDEO: MACHINE SWITCHES VOTES from REPUBLICAN to DEMOCRAT IN IL” by JOEL B. POLLAK October 30, 2014Video: Machine Switches Votes from Republican to Democrat in IL by Joel B. Pollak 29 Oct 2014 Video has emerged from Illinois of a “calibration error” that causes voting machines to switch votes from Republican to Democrat. The video, posted on YouTube, purportedly shows voting machines in the public library in Moline, IL registering votes […]duckyack
- EMAIL FROM SEN. TED CRUZ October 29, 2014http://www.jobsgrowth.org/makedclisten/?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuq3IZKXonjHpfsX87ektW6ag38431UFwdcjKPmjr1YIAScd0aPyQAgobGp5I5FEKS7HYXa1mt6EOUgemXSjrtqDIZoxAZZ13gZcy Dear Xxxxxx, We’re engaged in an urgent fight to change the course of our nation. But there’s something you can do — right now — to help us win. I believe we’re going to retake the United States […]duckyack
- BLACKS ARE “LESS SOPHISTICATED VOTERS” by J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS, BREITBART BIG GOVERNMENT October 21, 2014MY TWO SENSE BLACKS TOO STUPID TO PROCURE VOTER ID-BLACKS LESS EVOLVED THAN OTHER RACES: It’s the same old argument from closeted racists (I’m weary of the term)! Can you imagine what explosions would occur if a Conservative had said such a thing? Of course, you can. The fact is; now listen up black folk […]duckyack
- EMAIL LETTER FROM TED CRUZ September 25, 2014A LETTER FROM TED CRUZ Dear Xxxxxxxxx, A year ago today, we began an effort to #MakeDCListen. I went to the Senate floor to warn of the tremendous harms Obamacare would cause and urge Congress to do something about it. You went to Facebook, to Twitter, or even to your neighbors to speak the truth. […]duckyack
- TOWNHALL.COM by KATIE PAVLICH (http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/09/10/doj-works-with-democrats-on-capitol-hill-to-attack-issa-over-irs-scandal-n1889482) September 10, 2014http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/09/10/doj-works-with-democrats-on-capitol-hill-to-attack-issa-over-irs-scandal-n1889482 Liberal Incest: DOJ Works With Democrats on Capitol Hill to Attack Issa, Manipulate IRS Scandal Info Katie Pavlich | Sep 10, 2014 A letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder from Chairman of the House Oversight Committee […]duckyack
- SENATOR TED CRUZ’S COMPILATION OF: THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ATTEMPTS TO EXPAND FEDERAL POWER September 5, 2014OFFICE OF SENATOR TED CRUZ 185 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-5922 http://www.cruz.senate.gov THE LEGAL LIMIT: THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ATTEMPTS TO EXPAND FEDERAL POWER Report No. 4: The Obama Administration’s Abuse of Power By U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) Ranking Member Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on The Constitution, C […]duckyack
- UNITED STATES FREEDOM ARMY EMAIL: WEBSITE(http://www.usfreedomarmy.com/constitutional-freedom-march/) September 4, 2014UNITED STATES FREEDOM ARMY END OF MONTH REPORT AS OF 08/31/2014 CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM MARCH “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” “When your children and grandchildren ask you what happened to America make sure […]duckyack
- MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER by L. BRENT BOZELL, III (Email sent to me) August 23, 2014Please take a moment to read this important op-ed by Media Research Center Founder and President L. Brent Bozell, III. MEDIA CENSOR SOROS CONNECTION TO PERRY INDICTMENT By L. Brent Bozell, III On January 27, 1998, then First Lady Hillary Clinton – without a shred of credible evidence – infamously claimed during an NBC Today […]duckyack
- HOT AIR posted by MICHELE KIRK August 22, 2014Forget Obama’s dribble; you’ll want to read this US Marine veteran’s powerful response to beheading! August 22, 2014 by Michele Kirk Photo credit: AmericanLivewire.com As Obama continues to bounce the ball meaninglessly all over the court, leave it to a US soldier to get a slam dunk! A Marine Corps veteran sent an unmistakable message […]duckyack
- NEW YORK TIMES by PETER BAKER and JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS August 22, 2014MY TWO SENSE Immediately after being “‘heartbroken’ by the brutal murder of an American journalist, James Foley,” and after he “just hung up the telephone with the devastated parents,” Obamahammamomma runs to golf course because, of course, he’s still on vacation. He had to go, after all, because apparently it’s not good for the president […] […]duckyack
- TOWNHALL.COM by LARRY ELDER August 22, 2014MY TWO SENSE AREN’T YOU ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES, HYPOCRITES OF THE NATION? I’m saying that I’m ashamed to be associated with everyone I know who jumped on this band wagon of the “Poor, poor black teen, murdered by a Ferguson cop!” Officer Wilson, I believed none of it, because no evidence was in-no witness statements […]duckyack
- NEWS.COM.AU by NETWORK WRITERS August 19, 2014MY TWO SENSE We no longer need worry about which photo of Michael Brown is being used to spin this case. Agree, or not, this woman is to be respected for her courage to stand up for her beliefs, for the fact that she has moral-issues beliefs, and for her tenacity of meeting violence with […]duckyack
- COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVES CITIZENS by Channel 4 News St. Louis, MO August 18, 2014Four black males murder random white man for the fun of it Imo, MO If the races had been reversed, this would be a national news story. Instead it is a hush crime and the media calls it “a robbery.” A white pizza delivery driver was shot and killed while sitting in his car in […]duckyack
- THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW & “OBAMACARE WRITTEN TO FOOL STUPID AMERICANS” November 12, 2014
Site infoSO HERE AND NOW
Blog at WordPress.com.