NSA Routinely Monitors Americans’ Communications Without Warrants

On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Sen. Rand Paul was asked about President Trump’s accusation that President Obama ordered the NSA to wiretap his calls. The Kentucky senator expressed skepticism about the mechanics of Trump’s specific charge, saying: “I doubt that Trump was a target directly of any kind of eavesdropping.” But he then made a broader and more crucial point about how the U.S. government spies on Americans’ communications — a point that is deliberately obscured and concealed by U.S. government defenders.

Paul explained how the NSA routinely and deliberately spies on Americans’ communications — listens to their calls and reads their emails — without a judicial warrant of any kind:

The way it works is, the FISA court, through Section 702, wiretaps foreigners and then [NSA] listens to Americans. It is a backdoor search of Americans. And because they have so much data, they can tap — type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls.

And so they did this to President Obama. They — 1,227 times eavesdrops on President Obama’s phone calls. Then they mask him. But here is the problem. And General Hayden said this the other day. He said even low-level employees can unmask the caller. That is probably what happened to Flynn.

They are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners. But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans.

Paul’s explanation is absolutely correct. That the NSA is empowered to spy on Americans’ communications without a warrant — in direct contravention of the core Fourth Amendment guarantee that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” — is the dirty little secret of the U.S. Surveillance State.

As I documented at the height of the controversy over the Snowden reporting, top government officials — including President Obama — constantly deceived (and still deceive) the public by falsely telling them that their communications cannot be monitored without a warrant. Responding to the furor created over the first set of Snowden reports about domestic spying, Obama sought to reassure Americans by telling Charlie Rose: “What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls … by law and by rule, and unless they … go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause.”

The right-wing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, echoed Obama, telling CNN the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls. If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law.”

Those statements are categorically false. A key purpose of the new 2008 FISA law — which then-Senator Obama voted for during the 2008 general election after breaking his primary-race promise to filibuster it — was to legalize the once-controversial Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping program, which the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing in 2005. The crux of the Bush/Cheney controversy was that they ordered NSA to listen to Americans’ international telephone calls without warrants — which was illegal at the time — and the 2008 law purported to make that type of domestic warrantless spying legal.

Because warrantless spying on Americans is so anathema to how citizens are taught to think about their government — that’s what Obama was invoking when he falsely told Rose that it’s “the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause” — the U.S. government has long been desperate to hide from Americans the truth about NSA’s warrantless powers. U.S. officials and their media spokespeople reflexively mislead the U.S. public on this critical point.

It’s no surprise, then, that as soon as Rand Paul was done uttering the unpleasant, usually hidden truth about NSA’s domestic warrantless eavesdropping, the cavalcade of ex-intelligence-community officials who are now heavily embedded in American punditry rushed forward to attack him. One former NSA lawyer, who now writes for the IC’s most loyal online platform, Lawfare, expressed grave offense at what she claimed was Sen. Paul’s “false and irresponsible claim.”

The only thing here that’s “false and irresponsible” is Hennessey’s attempt to deceive the public about the domestic spying powers of her former employer. And many other people beyond Rand Paul have long made clear just how misleading Hennessey’s claim is.

Ted Lieu, the liberal congressman from California, has made it one of his priorities to stop the very power Hennessey and her IC colleagues pretend does not exist: warrantless spying on Americans. The 2008 FISA law that authorized it is set to expire this year, and this is what Lieu tweeted last week about his efforts to repeal that portion of it:

And in response to the IC attacks on Paul on Sunday, Lieu explained:

As Lieu says, the 2008 FISA law explicitly allows NSA — without a warrant — to listen to Americans’ calls or read their emails with foreign nationals as long as their “intent” is to target the foreigner, not the American. Hennessey’s defense is true only in the narrowest and emptiest theoretical sense: that the statute bars the practice of “reverse targeting,” where the real intent of targeting a foreign national is to monitor what Americans are saying. But the law was designed, and is now routinely used, for exactly that outcome.

How do we know that a key purpose of the 2008 law is to allow the NSA to purposely monitor Americans’ communications without a warrant? Because NSA and other national security officials said so explicitly. This is how Jameel Jaffer, then of the ACLU, put it in 2013:

On its face, the 2008 law gives the government authority to engage in surveillance directed at people outside the United States. In the course of conducting that surveillance, though, the government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans. The government often says that this surveillance of Americans’ communications is “incidental,” which makes it sound like the NSA’s surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and emails is inadvertent and, even from the government’s perspective, regrettable.

But when Bush administration officials asked Congress for this new surveillance power, they said quite explicitly that Americans’ communications were the communications of most interest to them. See, for example, FISA for the 21st Century, Hearing Before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 109th Cong. (2006) (statement of Michael Hayden) (stating, in debate preceding passage of FAA’s predecessor statute, that certain communications “with one end in the United States” are the ones “that are most important to us”).

The principal purpose of the 2008 law was to make it possible for the government to collect Americans’ international communications — and to collect those communications without reference to whether any party to those communications was doing anything illegal. And a lot of the government’s advocacy is meant to obscure this fact, but it’s a crucial one: The government doesn’t need to “target” Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications.

During debate over that 2008 law, the White House repeatedly issued veto threats over proposed amendments from then-Sen. Russ Feingold and others to weaken NSA’s ability to use the law to monitor Americans’ communications without warrants — because enabling such warrantless eavesdropping powers was, as they themselves said, a prime objective of the new law.

When the ACLU’s Jaffer appeared in 2014 before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to argue that the 2008 FISA law was unconstitutional in terms of how it was written and how NSA exploits it, he made clear exactly how NSA conducts “backdoor” warrantless searches of Americans’ communications despite the bar on “reverse targeting”:

Those who actually work to protect Americans’ privacy rights and other civil liberties have been warning for years that NSA is able to purposely monitor Americans’ communications without warrants. Human Rights Watch has warned that “in reality the law allows the agency to capture potentially vast numbers of Americans’ communications with people overseas” and thus “currently underpins some of the most sweeping warrantless NSA surveillance programs that affect Americans and people across the globe.” And Marcy Wheeler, in response to Hennessey’s misleading claim on Sunday, correctly said: “I can point to court docs and congressional claims that entire point of 702 [of the 2008 FISA law] is to ID convos involving Americans.”

Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, warned in the Boston Review that the ban on “reverse targeting” was a farce. In fact, “the program tolerates — and even contemplates — a massive amount of collection of Americans’ telephone calls, emails, and other electronic communications.” Thus, she explains, “it is likely that Americans’ communications comprise a significant portion of the 250 million internet transactions (and undisclosed number of telephone conversations) intercepted each year without a warrant or showing of probable cause.”

Even more alarming is the power NSA now has to search the immense amount of Americans’ communications data it routinely collects without a warrant. As Goitein explained: “The government may intentionally search for this information even though it would have been illegal, under section 702’s ‘reverse targeting’ prohibition, for the government to have such intent at the time of collection.”

In the wake of the controversy triggered by Trump’s accusations about Obama’s “tapping” his phones, Goitein wrote a new article explaining that there are numerous ways the government could have spied on the communications of Trump (or any American) without a warrant. She emphasized that “there have long been concerns, on both the right and left, that the legal constraints on foreign intelligence surveillance contain too many loopholes that can be exploited to access information about Americans without judicial oversight or evidence of wrongdoing.”

This is what Rand Paul meant when he said on Sunday that “because [NSA analysts] have so much data, they can tap — type Donald Trump into their vast resources of people they are tapping overseas, and they get all of his phone calls.” And while — as I’ve argued previously — any leaks that reveal lying by officials are criminal yet justified even if they come from the CIA or NSA, Paul is also correct that these domestic warrantless eavesdropping powers vest the Deep State — or, if you naïvely prefer, our noble civil servants — with menacing powers against even the highest elected officials.

The warrantless gathering and searching of vast amounts of communications data essentially becomes a dossier that can be used even against domestic opponents. This is what Snowden meant in his much-maligned but absolutely true statement in his first interview with us back in 2013 that “I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.” As Paul put it on Face the Nation: “It is very dangerous, because they are revealing that now to the public.” That’s a serious concern no matter how happy one might be to see Donald Trump damaged or how much one now adores the intelligence agencies.

Congress has now begun debating whether to allow these provisions of the 2008 law to expire at the end of the year, whether to meaningfully reform them, or whether to let them be renewed again. The post-9/11 history has been that once even “temporary” measures (such as the Patriot Act) are enacted, they become permanent fixtures of our political landscape.

Perhaps the growing recognition that nobody is immune from such abusive powers will finally reverse that tide. Those eager to preserve these domestic surveillance powers in their maximalist state rely on the same tactic that has worked so well for them for 15 years now: rank disinformation.

If nothing else, this debate ought to finally obliterate that pleasing though utterly false myth that the U.S. government does not and cannot spy on Americans’ communications without warrants. It does so constantly, easily, deliberately, and by design.

— source theintercept.com by Glenn Greenwald

Wikileaks reveal NSA cyber weapons used to hack Pakistan mobile system

New information about the involvement of US in hacking Pakistan mobile system has been found in a release by Wikileaks. This leak points to NSA’s cyber weapons which include code related to hacking of Pakistan mobile system. NSA, National Security Agency responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes in the USA, has allegedly spied on Pakistani civilian and military leadership in the past

— source techjuice.pk

US’ NSA spying on BJP

United States National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a report said on Tuesday. According to a report published in news agency ANI, WikiLeaks claimed that apart from BJP, NSA is also spying on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). “Hundreds of NSA cyber weapons variants publicly released including code showing hacking of Pakistan mobile system,” WikiLeaks had said.

— source zeenews.india.com

Hackers release files indicating NSA monitored global bank transfers

Hackers released documents and files on Friday that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks. The documents and files were released by a group calling themselves The Shadow Brokers. Some of the records bear NSA seals. Also published were many NSA programs for attacking various versions of the Windows operating system, at least some of which still work, researchers said.

— source reuters.com

Oh Thats one of the reason Modi puppet is pushing for digital money in india.

Top-Secret Snowden Document Reveals What the NSA Knew About Previous Russian Hacking

To date, the only public evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacks of the DNC and key Democratic figures has been circumstantial and far short of conclusive, courtesy of private research firms with a financial stake in such claims. Multiple federal agencies now claim certainty about the Kremlin connection, but they have yet to make public the basis for their beliefs.

Now, a never-before-published top-secret document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden suggests the NSA has a way of collecting evidence of Russian hacks, because the agency tracked a similar hack before in the case of a prominent Russian journalist, who was also a U.S. citizen.

In 2006, longtime Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in her apartment, the victim of an apparent contract killing. Although five individuals, including the gunman, were convicted for the crime, whoever ordered the murder remains unknown. Information about Politkovskaya’s journalism career, murder, and the investigation of that crime was compiled by the NSA in the form of an internal wiki entry. Most of the wiki’s information is biographical, public, and unclassified, save for a brief passage marked top secret:

Russian Federal Intelligence Services (probably FSB) are known to have targeted the webmail account of the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. On 5 December 2005, RFIS initiated an attack against the account annapolitkovskaia@US Provider1, deploying malicious software which is not available in the public domain. It is not known whether this attack is in any way associated with the death of the journalist.

Although the NSA document does not specify the account, Anna Politkovskaya was known to use the email address annapolitkovskaia@yahoo.com.

In response to a query from The Intercept about the hacking of Politkovskaya’s account, Yahoo replied in a statement: “We can only disclose information about a specific user account pursuant to our terms of service, privacy policy and law enforcement guidelines.”

The year after her email was hacked, Politkovskaya was murdered, a crime that was widely suspected, though never proven, to be a Kremlin reprisal for her reporting on Chechnya and criticism of Vladimir Putin.

This hack sounds more or less like a very rough sketch of what private firms like CrowdStrike allege the FSB perpetrated against the DNC this year, and presumably what entities like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have, behind closed doors, told President Obama took place.

What’s particularly interesting here is the provenance of NSA’s claims: The section is classified TS/SI, meaning Top Secret Signals Intelligence, the interception of signals (broadly construed) as they pass from one point to another, including anything from tapped phone calls to monitored internet traffic. That is to say, the NSA knew Russia hacked Politkovskaya because the NSA was spying. Thanks to the Snowden revelations, we know there are many powerful, overlapping government spy programs that could allow the NSA to observe communications as they unfold.

Unfortunately, in the case of this wiki there’s no indication of exactly what sort of SIGINT was collected with regard to Politkovskaya, or how it incriminated Russian intelligence — all we have is the allusion to the evidence, not the evidence. The NSA declined to comment.

But that this evidence existed at all is important, and more so today than ever. Simply, the public evidence that the Russian government hacked the Democrats isn’t convincing. Too much of what’s been passed off to the public as proof of Kremlin involvement is based on vague clues and educated guesses of what took place. Signals intelligence could bridge the empirical gap.

Adm. Mike Rogers, the current NSA chief, has already publicly claimed that Russia was behind the attack. “This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect,” Rogers said in November, without specifically mentioning Russia.

NSA whistleblowers have so far given the best idea of what the NSA’s signals intelligence on Russia, today or in 2005, could look like. Earlier this year, Snowden tweeted that if the Russian government was indeed behind the hacking of the Democrats, the NSA most likely has the goods, noting that XKEYSCORE, a sort of global SIGINT search engine, “makes following exfiltrated data easy. I did this personally against Chinese ops.” Snowden went so far as to say that nailing down this sort of SIGINT hacker attribution “is the only case in which mass surveillance has actually proven effective.”

The ex-U.S. intelligence personnel who comprise the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, including fellow high-profile NSA whistleblower William Binney, echoed Snowden’s assessment earlier this month:

The bottom line is that the NSA would know where and how any “hacked” emails from the DNC, HRC or any other servers were routed through the network. This process can sometimes require a closer look into the routing to sort out intermediate clients, but in the end sender and recipient can be traced across the network.

Signal interception can take many different forms, and again, there’s no way to know exactly what the NSA had intercepted surrounding Anna Politkovskaya. But we know intelligence is being gathered on a fine enough level to pin the breach of a single inbox on the Russian government. If the NSA could use signals intelligence to track a specific hack of an American email account in 2005, it’s not too much to assume that, 10 years later, the agency possesses the same or better capability. And signals intelligence is the type of evidence that the American people are owed from the federal government today, as we contemplate a possible confrontation with Russia for interfering in our most important of democratic processes.

— source theintercept.com By Sam Biddle

NSA Revelations From 262 Spy Documents

By the first half of 2004, the National Security Agency was drowning in information. It had amassed 85 billion phone and online records and cut the ribbon on a new hacking center in Hawaii — but it was woefully short on linguists who could make sense of captured communications and lacked enough network analysts to effectively monitor all the systems it had hacked.

The signals intelligence collected by the agency was being used for critically important decisions even as NSA struggled to understand it. Some bombs in Iraq were being targeted based entirely on signals intelligence, a senior NSA official told staff at the time — with decisions being made in a matter of “minutes” with “less and less review.”

Information overload is just one of several themes running through 262 articles from the NSA’s internal news site, SIDtoday, which The Intercept is now releasing after careful review. The documents also detailed an incident in which the Reagan administration appears to have leaked classified intelligence to the press for political purposes, described in an accompanying article by reporter Jon Schwarz.

SIDtoday articles published today also describe how the NSA trained FBI agents, enabled U.S. intervention in Latin America, and, with the help of a gifted analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, learned the value of simply reading information that was already public. One document even suggests that NSA personnel routinely got dangerously chatty at restaurants near headquarters. These stories and more are described in the highlights reel below. The NSA declined to comment.
Dropping Bombs in Iraq “With Less and Less Review”

A top NSA official disclosed in a January 2004 SIDtoday column that U.S. forces were “dropping bombs” based entirely on signals intelligence, the type of intelligence collected by the agency. He then implied that the American officers involved risked prosecution for war crimes.

Charles Berlin, chief of staff in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, recounted an anecdote about a former commander of his who, in one session in the winter of 1995-96, personally reviewed more than 100 possible airstrike targets in the Balkans. The commander’s motivation, Berlin said, was to protect his underlings from being prosecuted for war crimes, and his actions “really brought home the concepts of responsibility and accountability.”

“For us today this lesson is especially important,” he added. “The planning cycle for dropping a bomb has compressed from a day to minutes and the criterion for the aiming point has less and less review.”

“As many of you know, our forces in Iraq are dropping bombs on the strength of SIGINT alone. We are proud of their confidence in us, but have you ever considered the enormous risk the commanders are assuming in this regard? Are you ready to share that risk?”

Inside the NSA’s Call-Logging Machine

Among the ways the NSA identified potential terrorists was through a practice known as “information chaining,” which uses communications metadata to draw a social graph. And there’s no question the agency had lots of metadata: As of 2004, the NSA had amassed a database of more than 85 billion metadata records related to phone calls, billing, and online calls — and was adding 125 million records a day, according to a January 2004 SIDtoday article titled “The Rewards of Metadata.”

The database, known as FASCIA II, would at some unspecified point in the future begin processing 205 million records a day and storing 10 years of data, the article added. One of the world’s largest Oracle databases at the time, FASCIA II held metadata records from telephone calls, wireless calls, billing, the use of media over the internet, and high-powered cordless phones, with plans to add email metadata in the future.

The article explained that metadata is used by the agency in the process of “information chaining,” in which analysts spy on relationships between people. It further claimed that two senior al Qaeda operatives had been captured with the help of such techniques. A March 2004 SIDtoday article said a chaining tool called MAINWAY helped a counterterrorism analyst uncover six new “terrorist-related numbers.”
Short on Linguists, NSA Struggled to Understand Targets

It’s one thing to collect phone calls, email messages, and other signals intelligence. It’s quite another to make sense of it. Several SIDtoday articles from the first half of 2004 made clear that the NSA was falling far short in its attempts to process communications conducted in languages other than English.

Only half of the agency’s more than 2,300 “language missions” worldwide had qualified personnel, according to a June 2004 SIDtoday article by an NSA “senior language authority.” The author declared that “this shortcoming must be rectified.” An NSA report to an oversight council, quoted in the article, said that the lack of qualified language analysts was particularly acute in the “Global War on Terrorism.”

Exacerbating the situation was the fact that captured communications require a high level of linguistic proficiency to understand. “The cryptologic language analyst must be able to read and listen ‘between the lines’ to unformatted, unpredictable discourse,” as the article put it. Only a quarter of military cryptologic linguists, who formed the vast majority of the workforce, could work at this level, known as “level 3” proficiency, while barely half of the civilian cryptologic linguists could, according to a follow-up SIDtoday article. The military’s language training institute offered “virtually no existing curriculum” above level 2.

NSA’s plan to address the problem included reforms to the training institute and on-site instruction to bring existing linguists up to higher levels. The agency planned to invest about $80 million per year in training over five years. Other efforts included an internal online language training tool, an evaluation of redundant Arabic machine translation projects underway in various government agencies, and the formation of a language technology team within the NSA.

How the NSA Over-Hacked

Sometimes metadata isn’t enough and the NSA decides it needs to compromise targets’ computers to collect much more data. The first half of 2004 saw a ramp-up of NSA’s hacking capabilities. In March, SIDtoday reported, the agency’s elite hacking team Tailored Access Operations approved Kunia Regional Security Operations Center in Hawaii — the same facility where Edward Snowden later worked — as the first NSA field office to conduct “advanced” Computer Network Exploitation. Other facilities conduct the first stage of hacking, “target mapping,” but the Kunia facility began doing “vulnerability scanning” all the way through to “sustained SIGINT collection.”

Another March SIDtoday article said that an advanced network analysis division used to help “exploit targets of interest” had “played an instrumental part” in capturing alleged al Qaeda operative Husam al-Yemeni, had developed a “more complete understanding of the Pakistani Army Defense Network (ADN) infrastructure,” and had assisted with the hacking of “an important digital network associated” with the leader of Venezuela at the time, referred to erroneously as “Victor Chavez.”

The NSA was so successful at hacking networks that the agency was overwhelmed with information. “We simply do not have enough network analysts to effectively monitor these targeted networks,” an NSA division chief wrote in an April 2004 SIDtoday article. To solve the problem, the agency began prototyping an automated monitoring system.

“Outstanding” Bookworm Spy Doesn’t Need to Really Spy

Even as the NSA made enormous efforts to collect vast quantities of private communications, a lone SIDtoday article extolled the value of publicly available data. The piece, from May 2004, gushed about a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who dug up leads by poring over Russian material that was “open source.” The DIA bookworm searched in newspapers, government documents, and “obscure websites” for information that aided the NSA in collecting intelligence, including names, telephone numbers, and addresses. The article, co-authored by an NSA director with responsibility for Russia, praised the analyst’s “outstanding language and research skills.” It turned out that “critical lead information” on Russian underground facilities, including a mysterious and widely discussed site at Yamantau Mountain in the Urals, was “often only available in open source literature, such as the Internet.”

How the NSA Secures — and Routinely Puts at Risk — Sensitive Information

Knowing how much intelligence value could be reaped from openly circulated information, the NSA worked to encourage discretion among members of its workforce. NSA employees practiced poor operational security on a “monthly” basis by disclosing too much information in restaurants and other public settings near the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters, an agency security manager indicated in a tutorial on operational security that ran in SIDtoday in April 2004.

The article used a hypothetical scenario to explain why operational security, or OPSEC, was important for everyone. The author, OPSEC manager for the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, wrote: “You’re at a luncheon at a local restaurant to bid farewell to Sue, a co-worker who is moving on to a new office.” Your boss makes a toast to Sue, describing her contributions against organized crime and offering various details of her work. Sue then gives a toast thanking some of the gathered individuals.

“Sound familiar?” the OPSEC manager asked. “Then you’ve witnessed (or perhaps participated in) a demonstration of poor OPSEC. … Have you ever stopped to consider what your unclassified public discussions might be giving away? Take the scenario, for instance. This is a scene that is played out monthly in the Fort Meade area.” The article went on to list the pieces of information that an adversary, who could have been listening in from a nearby table, would have learned.

OPSEC turned out to be a recurring theme for SIDtoday — OPSEC training is, after all, mandatory for all NSA personnel. A January 2004 article, written by the author of the April 2004 piece, listed some tips to help personnel to apply OPSEC to their day-to-day activities: Identify your critical information, analyze the threat, identify vulnerabilities, assess risk, and apply countermeasures.

NSA employees aren’t the only ones trained to practice good OPSEC. A March 2005 article reported that the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba practiced OPSEC successfully. President Bush considered Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a “threat to democracy in the region and a threat to U.S. interests in particular.” But “from a SIGINT perspective, Venezuela poses a particularly difficult challenge. With Castro as his mentor, Chavez has learned the importance of communications security and has made sure that his subordinates understand this as well.”
Law & Order & the NSA

Various 2004 SIDtoday articles highlight the NSA’s behind-the-scenes work on behalf of federal law enforcement.

One detailed a two-week training course on “intelligence reporting” given by NSA staff to FBI officers working on terrorism cases. The course, which had a component dubbed “SIGINT Reporting 101,” aimed to provide “insight into the complexity and difficulty of our business” and to dispel “Hollywood myths about the NSA.”

Another SIDtoday article showed how the U.S. Coast Guard was able to interdict a boat carrying 3.2 metric tons of cocaine thanks to the NSA’s monitoring of VHF radio signals, which carried voice communications of narcotraffickers. An official Coast Guard history of the incident elides the NSA’s role. The same SIDtoday article also disclosed that the Colombian air force carried out a strike against a suspected trafficker aircraft after a tip-off from the NSA.
NSA vs. FARC

Colombian guerrillas holding American hostages evaded massive NSA surveillance, according to a February 2004 SIDtoday article.

One year after three American contractors, who had been on a surveillance mission for the U.S. military, were captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a Marxist guerilla group, the U.S. “has not been able to determine with high confidence the exact location and status of the hostages,” wrote an NSA account manager for the military’s Southern Command. This despite “hundreds” of U.S. government personnel having worked to gain their release. U.S. efforts were stymied when FARC’s leadership ordered that personnel cease mentioning hostage operations directly in their communications; the best the NSA could achieve at the time of the SIDtoday article was to monitor calls between two radio operators, “Paula and Adriana,” who in turn were connected to the FARC leaders “we strongly suspect are linked to the hostages.”

The author of the SIDtoday article added that the agency continued to try and get a fix on the location of the hostages. Yet their captors eluded the Americans for another four years. The three Americans were freed by Colombian commandos in July 2008.

A March 2004 SIDtoday article noted a success against FARC, bragging that the arrest of FARC financial leader Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, known as “Sonya,” and a number of her associates a month earlier “resulted from years of monitoring. … Accurate geolocational data as to where she was and when, allowed a vetted Colombian team to capture them by surprise and without any loss of life.” Valderrama was extradited to the United States where she was tried and convicted on drug trafficking charges in 2007.

Internal NSA Criticism of Political Groups and the News Media

A national intelligence officer gave a top-secret “issue seminar” to NSA staff on the question of “where political action fades into terrorism,” according to a seminar announcement published in June 2004. The announcement suggested that the line between “legitimate political activity” and “activity that is the precursor to, or supportive of, terrorism” is fuzzy. The course used the Vienna-based organization Anti-Imperialist Camp as a case study, describing it as “ostensibly a political organization” but noting that “its many ties to terrorist organizations — and its attempts to collaborate with Muslim extremists — raise questions about where political action fades into terrorism.” No further details were given to substantiate the alleged ties; the group’s website remains online. A spokesperson for the group, Wilhelm Langthaler, told The Intercept that the group was targeted for such accusations for political reasons, including its opposition to the war in Iraq and “our public support for the resistance against occupation which we have compared with the antifascist resistance against German occupation.”

Another seminar announcement said the news media helped stymie U.S. intelligence collection. “A day hasn’t gone by that our adversaries haven’t picked up a newspaper or gone on the Internet to learn something new about how the US intelligence gathering system operates and what its capabilities or limitations are,” the course overview explained. “And in response, a day hasn’t gone by that our adversaries haven’t modified their operations and activities to avoid being detected and collected against by the US intelligence gathering system.”
NSA’s Role in the Failed Iran Hostage Rescue Attempt

In an anecdote about signals intelligence during the 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission, a SIGINT staffer recalled the night of April 24 of that year, when he was told he was monitoring the ongoing “Operation Ricebowl.” In a May 2004 SIDtoday article, the staffer wrote: “We knew the parameters of the Iranian Air Defense system because it was U.S. equipment and installed by U.S. contractors while the Shah of Iran was still in power. We knew exactly where the gaps in coverage were and we exploited it during the rescue attempt.” The author went on to describe his shock the next morning when he saw on TV news at home that the mission had ended with a disastrous helicopter crash.

— source theintercept.com By Micah Lee, Margot Williams

Titanpointe – The NSA’s Spy Hub in New York, Hidden in Plain Sight

They called it Project X. It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.

But the building’s primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States — the world’s largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.

The building was designed by the architectural firm John Carl Warnecke & Associates, whose grand vision was to create a communication nerve center like a “20th century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within.”

Construction began in 1969, and by 1974, the skyscraper was completed. Today, it can be found in the heart of lower Manhattan at 33 Thomas Street, a vast gray tower of concrete and granite that soars 550 feet into the New York skyline. The brutalist structure, still used by AT&T and, according to the New York Department of Finance, owned by the company, is like no other in the vicinity. Unlike the many neighboring residential and office buildings, it is impossible to get a glimpse inside 33 Thomas Street. True to the designers’ original plans, there are no windows and the building is not illuminated. At night it becomes a giant shadow, blending into the darkness, its large square vents emitting a distinct, dull hum that is frequently drowned out by the sound of passing traffic and wailing sirens.

For many New Yorkers, 33 Thomas Street — known as the “Long Lines Building” — has been a source of mystery for years. It has been labeled one of the city’s weirdest and most iconic skyscrapers, but little information has ever been published about its purpose.

It is not uncommon to keep the public in the dark about a site containing vital telecommunications equipment. But 33 Thomas Street is different: An investigation by The Intercept indicates that the skyscraper is more than a mere nerve center for long-distance phone calls. It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil — a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data.

Documents obtained by The Intercept from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden do not explicitly name 33 Thomas Street as a surveillance facility. However — taken together with architectural plans, public records, and interviews with former AT&T employees conducted for this article — they provide compelling evidence that 33 Thomas Street has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE.

Inside 33 Thomas Street there is a major international “gateway switch,” according to a former AT&T engineer, which routes phone calls between the United States and countries across the world. A series of top-secret NSA memos suggest that the agency has tapped into these calls from a secure facility within the AT&T building. The Manhattan skyscraper appears to be a core location used for a controversial NSA surveillance program that has targeted the communications of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and at least 38 countries, including close U.S. allies such as Germany, Japan, and France.

It has long been known that AT&T has cooperated with the NSA on surveillance, but few details have emerged about the role of specific facilities in carrying out the top-secret programs. The Snowden documents provide new information about how NSA equipment has been integrated as part of AT&T’s network in New York City, revealing in unprecedented detail the methods and technology the agency uses to vacuum up communications from the company’s systems.

“This is yet more proof that our communications service providers have become, whether willingly or unwillingly, an arm of the surveillance state,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The NSA is presumably operating under authorities that enable it to target foreigners, but the fact that it is so deeply embedded in our domestic communications infrastructure should tip people off that the effects of this kind of surveillance cannot be neatly limited to non-Americans.”

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

The code name TITANPOINTE features dozens of times in the NSA documents, often in classified reports about surveillance operations. The agency uses code names to conceal information it deems especially sensitive — for instance, the names of companies it cooperates with or specific locations where electronic spying is carried out. Such details are usually considered “exceptionally controlled information,” a category beyond top secret and thus outside the scope of most of the documents that Snowden was able to obtain.

Secret NSA travel guides, dated April 2011 and February 2013, however, reveal information about TITANPOINTE that helps establish its connection to 33 Thomas Street. The 2011 guide, written to assist NSA employees visiting various facilities, discloses that TITANPOINTE is in New York City. The 2013 guide states that a “partner” called LITHIUM, which is NSA’s code name for AT&T, supervises visits to the site.

The 33 Thomas Street building is located almost next door to the FBI’s New York field office — about a block away — at Federal Plaza. The 2011 NSA travel guide instructs employees traveling to TITANPOINTE to head to the FBI’s New York field office. It adds that trips to the site should be coordinated with AT&T (referenced as “LITHIUM”) and the FBI, including an FBI “site watch officer.”

When traveling to TITANPOINTE, NSA employees are told to hire a “cover vehicle” through the FBI, especially if they are transporting equipment to the site. In order to keep their true identities secret while visiting, agency employees are instructed not to wear any clothing displaying NSA badges or insignia.

Upon arrival at TITANPOINTE, the 2011 travel guide says, agency employees should ring the buzzer, sign in, and wait for a person to come and meet them. The Intercept visited 33 Thomas Street and found a buzzer outside its entrance and a sign-in sheet on a desk in the building’s lobby, which is manned by a guard 24 hours a day. There are also parking bays in front of the skyscraper designated “AWM,” a traffic code for federal agencies.

A 1994 New York Times article reported that 33 Thomas Street was part of AT&T’s “giant Worldwide Intelligent Network, which is responsible for directing an average of 175 million phone calls a day.” Thomas Saunders, a former AT&T engineer, told The Intercept that inside the building there were at least three “4ESS switches” used to route calls across phone networks. “Of the first two, one handled domestic long-distance traffic and the other was an international gateway,” said Saunders, who retired from his role at the company in 2004. The NSA’s documents describe TITANPOINTE as containing “foreign gateway switches” and they state that it has a “RIMROCK access.” RIMROCK is an NSA code name for 4ESS switches.

The NSA’s documents also reveal that one of TITANPOINTE’s functions is to conduct surveillance as part of a program called SKIDROWE, which focuses on intercepting satellite communications. That is a particularly striking detail, because on the roof of 33 Thomas Street there are a number of satellite dishes. Federal Communications Commission records confirm that 33 Thomas Street is the only location in New York City where AT&T has an FCC license for satellite earth stations.

The man behind the design of 33 Thomas Street, John Carl Warnecke, was one of the most prominent architects in the U.S. between the 1960s and 1980s.

Warnecke’s high-profile projects included producing designs for the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., and the Hawaii State Capitol. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy’s administration commissioned Warnecke to preserve and restructure buildings at Lafayette Square, across from the White House. And following Kennedy’s assassination, Warnecke was asked to design the president’s eternal flame and gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. He also helped construct a new embassy complex in Washington for the Soviet Union, in which the Soviets claimed they found eavesdropping equipment embedded in the walls.

But it was not only governments that trusted Warnecke — who died in 2010, aged 91 — with major construction projects. He cultivated a close relationship with telecommunications companies, too, possibly helped by family ties to the industry. Warnecke’s father-in-law had been a director at Pacific Bell, a California-based AT&T subsidiary. In the 1960s, Warnecke was asked to design a telephone exchange building for Pacific Bell in Oakland. He would subsequently receive a series of other major commissions from AT&T: Aside from the 33 Thomas Street building, he also designed a telephone exchange in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and an AT&T facility in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Some of Warnecke’s original architectural drawings for 33 Thomas Street are labeled “Project X.” It was alternatively referred to as the Broadway Building. His plans describe the structure as “a skyscraper to be inhabited by machines” and say that it was “designed to house long lines telephone equipment and to protect it and its operating personnel in the event of atomic attack.” (At the time the building was commissioned and built, amid the Cold War, there were genuine fears in the U.S. about the prospect of a Soviet nuclear assault.)

It is not clear how many people work at 33 Thomas Street today, but Warnecke’s original plans stated that it would provide food, water, and recreation for 1,500 people. It would also store 250,000 gallons of fuel to power generators, which would enable it to become a “self-contained city” for two weeks in the event of an emergency power failure. The blueprints for the building show that it was to include three subterranean levels, including a cable vault, where telecommunications cables likely entered and exited the building from under Manhattan’s bustling streets.

After it was built, the unusual style of 33 Thomas Street attracted a lot of attention. Its dark, somewhat dystopian appearance contrasted dramatically with other buildings in lower Manhattan. Yet it proved popular, particularly among architecture buffs.

In a 1982 piece in the New York Times, architecture critic Paul Goldberger praised 33 Thomas Street as “one of the neighborhood’s few pieces of good modern architecture,” adding that it “blends into its surroundings more gracefully than does any other skyscraper in this area.”

“Other telephone company buildings from that era, designed solely for equipment, all look like horrible boxes,” Goldberger told The Intercept. “This one has an allure of its own to it. … There’s something about that shape. You see it and you don’t see it at the same time.”

In 1975, just a year after Warnecke’s 33 Thomas Street building was completed, the NSA became embroiled in one of the biggest scandals in the U.S. intelligence community’s history. Following revelations about domestic surveillance operations targeting anti-Vietnam War activists, a congressional select committee began investigating the alleged abuses.

The inquiry, led by Democratic Sen. Frank Church, published its findings in April 1976. It concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies had “invaded individual privacy and violated the rights of lawful assembly and political expression.” Surveillance programs operated by the NSA through this period, it was later revealed, had targeted “domestic terrorist and foreign radical” suspects, including a host of eminent Americans, such as the civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Whitney Young, the boxer Muhammad Ali, Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald, and New York Times journalist Tom Wicker.

The Church Committee recommended that new and tighter controls be placed on intelligence gathering. And in 1978, Congress approved the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requiring the executive branch to request warrants for spying operations from a newly formed court.

Through this tumultuous time for American spies, the NSA established a new surveillance program under the code name BLARNEY, which was first exposed in a Snowden-leaked slide published in 2013. According to a previously unpublished document provided to The Intercept by Snowden, BLARNEY was established in the early 1970s and, in mid-2013, remained one of the agency’s most significant initiatives.

BLARNEY leverages “commercial partnerships” in order to “gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks,” the document states. It carries out “full take” surveillance — a term that refers to the bulk collection of both content and metadata — under six different categories: counterproliferation, counterterrorism, diplomatic, economic, military, and political.

As of July 2010, the NSA had obtained at least 40 court orders for spying under the BLARNEY program, allowing the agency to monitor communications related to multiple countries, companies, and international organizations. Among the approved targets were the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank of Japan, the European Union, the United Nations, and at least 38 different countries, including U.S. allies such as Italy, Japan, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, and Cyprus.

The program was the NSA’s leading source of data collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, an April 2013 document disclosed, and information gleaned from the communications it intercepted was a top contributor to the president’s daily briefing.

Notably, TITANPOINTE has played a central role in BLARNEY’s operations. NSA documents dated between 2012 and 2013 list the TITANPOINTE surveillance facility among three of BLARNEY’s “core sites” and describe it as “BLARNEY’S site in NYC.” Equipment hosted at TITANPOINTE has been used to monitor international long-distance phone calls, faxes, voice calls routed over the internet (known as Voice-Over-IP), video conferencing, and other internet traffic.

In one case that may have involved 33 Thomas Street, NSA engineers with the BLARNEY program worked to eavesdrop on data from a connection serving the United Nations mission in New York. This spying resulted in “collection against the email address of the U.N. General leading the monitoring mission in Syria,” an April 2012 memo said.

Mogens Lykketoft, former president of the U.N.’s general assembly, criticized the surveillance. “Such spying activities are totally unacceptable breaches of trust in international cooperation,” he told The Intercept.

At the TITANPOINTE site, the NSA equipment is stored inside a secure room, known as a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.” Top-secret diagrams dated April 2012 show that within the secure space there is “NSA controlled” equipment linked to the routers of its “access partner,” referring to AT&T. Intercepted internet data was collected from the “backbone,” then processed at TITANPOINTE, before being passed to NSA for storage. Phone calls that were intercepted were collected from TITANPOINTE’s “foreign gateway switches” before being routed through the partner’s “call processor.” They were then forwarded to NSA’s headquarters in Maryland through an interface shared with the partner.

Much of the surveillance carried out at TITANPOINTE seems to involve monitoring calls and other communications as they are being sent across AT&T’s international phone and data cables. But the site has other capabilities at its disposal. The NSA’s documents indicate that it is also equipped with powerful satellite antenna — likely the ones located on the roof of 33 Thomas Street — which monitor information transmitted through the air.

The SKIDROWE spying program focuses on covertly vacuuming up internet data — known as “digital network intelligence” — as it is passing between foreign satellites. The harvested data is then made accessible through XKEYSCORE, a Google-like mass surveillance system that the NSA’s employees use to search through huge quantities of information about people’s emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and internet browsing histories.

Fletcher Cook, an AT&T spokesperson, told The Intercept that the company does not “allow any government agency to connect directly to or otherwise control our network to obtain our customers’ information. Rather, we simply respond to government requests for information pursuant to court orders or other mandatory process and, in rare cases, on a legal and voluntary basis when a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence, like in a kidnapping situation.”

Cook added that NSA representatives “do not have access to any secure room or space within our owned portion of the 33 Thomas Street building.” When pressed on whether any room within 33 Thomas Street contains equipment used for the purposes of NSA surveillance, an AT&T spokesperson pointed to a 1983 deed and declaration filed with New York City indicating that Verizon’s predecessor company maintained ownership of three floors and a basement floor in the building. The New York City Department of Finance said the predecessor company has an easement for the space and pays utility taxes, but insisted that AT&T owns the whole building. The AT&T spokesperson declined to comment further.

The NSA’s documents do not state that it can “connect directly to” or “otherwise control” AT&T’s networks, but they do make clear that the agency has placed its own equipment inside TITANPOINTE to tap into phone calls and internet data. It may be the case that the secure room where the equipment is installed is overseen by AT&T’s own engineers or technicians who have a security clearance. One NSA document dated from March 2013 suggests such a relationship, noting that the “corporate sites” the agency collects data from “are often controlled by the partner, who filters the communications before sending to NSA.”

As in 1983, AT&T may not be completely alone at 33 Thomas Street. Earlier this year, a technician working at the building — who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media — told The Intercept that a handful of Verizon employees were still based inside. However, the NSA’s documents do not suggest that Verizon is implicated in the surveillance at the TITANPOINTE facility, and instead only point to AT&T’s involvement. Verizon declined to comment for this story.

AT&T is far from the only company that has a relationship with the NSA. The agency has established what it calls “strategic partnerships” with more than 80 corporations. But some companies are more cooperative than others.

Historically, AT&T has always maintained close ties with the government. A good example of this came in June 1976, when a congressional subcommittee served AT&T with a subpoena demanding that it hand over information about its alleged role in unlawful FBI wiretapping of phone calls. President Gerald Ford personally intervened to block the subpoena, stating that AT&T “was and is an agent of the United States acting under contract with the Executive Branch.” Ford said the company was in a “unique position” with respect to telephone and other communication lines in the U.S., and therefore it had been “necessary for the Executive Branch to rely on its services to assist in acquiring certain information necessary to the national defense and foreign policy.” The details sought by the committee could not be shared, Ford asserted, because they could expose “extremely sensitive foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information.”

In more recent decades, as the New York Times and ProPublica reported last year, AT&T has allowed the NSA to access billions of emails, exhibiting what the agency called its “extreme willingness to help.” These revelations were foreshadowed in 2006 by allegations made by Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician. Klein stated that the company had maintained a “secure room” in one of its San Francisco offices, which was fitted with communications monitoring equipment apparently used by the NSA to tap into phone and internet traffic. Klein’s claims formed the basis of a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers (Jewel v. NSA), which remains ongoing today.

Coincidentally, between 1981 and 1990, Klein also worked for AT&T at 33 Thomas Street. “I wasn’t aware of any NSA presence when I was there, but I had a creepy feeling about the building, because I knew about AT&T’s close collaboration with the Pentagon, going way back,” he told The Intercept. When presented with the details linking 33 Thomas Street to NSA’s TITANPOINTE, Klein added: “I’m not surprised. It’s obviously a major installation. … If you’re interested in doing surveillance, it’s a good place to do it.”

According to the Snowden documents, AT&T has installed surveillance equipment in at least 59 U.S. sites. And on any given day, NSA employees may be working at the company’s facilities. Classified memos dated from April 2013 describe one- to four-day deployments of NSA technical staff to TITANPOINTE and other buildings. Most AT&T personnel at these locations, however, are unlikely to have knowledge of the agency’s presence. NSA staff are encouraged to wear clothes that make them “blend in to the environment.” Even the car hire company the agency uses for its trips to AT&T facilities is kept in the dark. “Some personnel are aware of the FBI link,” states the agency’s travel guidance, “but [they] have no knowledge of NSA’s involvement.”

This article is the product of a joint reporting project between The Intercept and Field of Vision. “Project X,” a Field of Vision documentary directed by Henrik Moltke and Laura Poitras, will screen at IFC Center starting November 18.

— source theintercept.com By Ryan Gallagher, Henrik Moltke