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How The NSA Scours 75% Of The Nation’s Internet Traffic – In One Chart

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Zero Hedge
August 21, 2013

The NSA - which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens - has, according to the Wall Street Journal, built a surveillance network that covers more Americans’ Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say. The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic. The NSA’s filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S. But the WSJ reports that officials say the system’s broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.Details of these surveillance programs were gathered from interviews with current and former intelligence and government officials and people from companies that help build or operate the systems, or provide data. Most have direct knowledge of the work. Here is how the system operates…

Via Wall Street Journal,

The NSA – which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens – has, according to the Wall Street Journal, built a surveillance network that covers more Americans’ Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say.

The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.

The NSA’s filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S. But officials say the system’s broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.

The programs, code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, among others, filter and gather information at major telecommunications companies. Blarney, for instance, was established with AT&T.

This filtering takes place at more than a dozen locations at major Internet junctions in the U.S., officials say. Previously, any NSA filtering of this kind was largely believed to be happening near points where undersea or other foreign cables enter the country.

Details of these surveillance programs were gathered from interviews with current and former intelligence and government officials and people from companies that help build or operate the systems, or provide data. Most have direct knowledge of the work.

“Technology is moving us swiftly into a world where the only barriers to this kind of dragnet surveillance are the protections enshrined into law,”

The systems operate like this:

The NSA asks telecom companies to send it various streams of Internet traffic it believes most likely to contain foreign intelligence.

This is the first cut of the data.

How The NSA Scours 75% Of The Nations Internet Traffic   In One Chart 20130820 NSA 0

These requests don’t ask for all Internet traffic. Rather, they focus on certain areas of interest, according to a person familiar with the legal process. “It’s still a large amount of data, but not everything in the world,” this person says.

The second cut is done by NSA.

It briefly copies the traffic and decides which communications to keep based on what it calls “strong selectors” - say, an email address, or a large block of computer addresses that correspond to an organization it is interested in. In making these decisions, the NSA can look at content of communications as well as information about who is sending the data.

Easy as that…

This article was posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 5:10 am





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