Open Thread: WaPo Publishes Four New Prism Slides
On June 13 kgb999 wrote a diary: ‘The NSA slides I hope Glenn Greenwald chooses to release’:
Based on the nature of the presentation, we can infer that certain open-secret capabilities would almost certainly be detailed. The tussle over which operations will see the light of day is undoubtedly pretty intense right now. It would be unfortunate if a decision were made to avoid discussion about the use of intrusive offense capabilities – trojans, viruses, zero day exploits, rootkits, command & control servers and related technologies.
We Know This Should Be In There
In the context of NSA digital surveillance abilities, an overview detailing capabilities to directly monitor and leverage control of a targeted digital system seems obvious in it’s absence. Goodness only knows what far-too-cute name the NSA crew have given, but to imagine these capabilities are not touched upon in the presentation begs disbelief.
I’ll say up front that I have No Idea whether or not these new slides show any of the information that he wants to see…being an utter tech idiot. But I do hope any of you will weigh in with what they demonstrate in lay terms. I swear I’ll try to understand. ;~) I also hope that kgb isn’t out shootin’ huckleberries or splittin’ cordwood for next winter, and can help, too. Nah, really, he’s prolly still asleep like any sane person would be early on a Sunday mornin’. Anyhoo, now we have four more slides, and a number of you will be able to help translate them for us.
From the Washington Post, describing what each new slides show; further explanations are in the margins:
Acquiring data from a new target
This slide describes what happens when an NSA analyst “tasks” the PRISM system for information about a new surveillance target. The request to add a new target is passed automatically to a supervisor 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.
Analyzing information collected from private companies
After communications information is acquired, the data are 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.
(In the margin programs ‘PRINTAURA automates the traffic flow. SCISSORS and Protocol Exploitation sort data types for analysis in NUCLEON (voice), PINWALE (video), MAINWAY (call records) and MARINA (Internet records) are noted.)
Each target is assigned a case notation
The PRISM case notation format reflects the availability, confirmed by The Post’s reporting, of real-time surveillance as well as stored content.
Searching the PRISM database
On April 5, according to this slide, there were 117,675 active surveillance targets in PRISM’s counterterrorism database. The slide does not show how many other Internet users, and among them how many Americans, have their communications collected “incidentally” during surveillance of those targets.
The previously published slides are after the four new ones (again). Good luck if you choose to accept this assignment. And welcome, General Alexander, General Clapper; we’re just tryin’ to restore our Constitution here. You all have been ridin’ roughshod over it, and…some of us are getting’ pretty peeved about that (even if we don’t grasp the technical details).
As an aside, depending on your take of it, a strange thing happened at the Guardian yesterday. I’d scanned through a piece there based on a piece at privacysurgeon.org’s interview with a former Navy Lt. who worked as a contractor for the NSA for twelve years starting in 1985. The thrust of the piece was:
Madsen spoke to the Privacy Surgeon yesterday to express his concern about the “half story” being conveyed by EU politicians about the extent of NSA activities in the region.
He was particularly concerned about the “sanctimonious outcry” of political leaders who were “feigning shock” about recently disclosed spying operations such as PRISM while staying silent about their own role in global interception arrangements with the United States.
“I can’t understand how Angela Merkel can keep a straight face – demanding assurances from Obama and the UK – while Germany has entered into those exact relationships”
“She’s acting like inspector Reynaud in Casablanca: ‘I’m shocked – shocked – to find gambling going on here’”
As I’d remembered the piece at the Guardian, the author pretty much said the guy was considered to be a bit of a loose cannon, but given that he was speaking about already declassified documents, what he said in the interview was valid and worth reporting on. This morning I decided to read the piece again, but unable to find it, I Giggled and found that the Guardian had pulled it: Guardian: ‘Taken down: deals to hand over private data to America’. Jokes skewering the paper are ginning up, of course, giving detractors of the paper and Glenn Greenwald false ammunition to shoot at them. Folks have been digging up some of Madsen’s more (ahem) fringe beliefs. Thoughts? Glenn Greenwald’s tweets say that the piece was originally published at the Observer, owned by the Guardian, with a completely different staff. One tweet asked a detractor: ‘Have you ever heard of bylines?’ (or close). Accidental, purposeful? Why did they take it down? Too much of a ha-ha: ‘that fucking whack job Madsen’ factor criticism?
But meanwhile (understanding that I have no idea about privacysurgeon’s veracity, knowledge), Simon Davies ‘Campaign notebook: 2006: the US bank data scandal and the Grand-Uncle of PRISM’ looks worth more than the scan I’d given it:
Some readers will recall the 2006 controversy over SWIFT and the secret grab by US agencies for the world’s financial transaction data. These notes detailing one element of that campaign – like those I published yesterday on the 1997 ECHELON action – may be useful to PRISM campaigners.