New Revelations: NSA and XKeyscore Program
Just when you believed that the last you were going to hear about Edward Snowden was that he was holed up in the airport in Moscow, living off borscht and blini (obviously topped with caviar) all washed down with the potato drink, the outside world will be gearing itself up to go to the foot of their stairs in exclamations of ‘well, blow me down!’.
The latest revelations about the National Security Agency of the USA inform the world of the existence of the program called XKeyscore, allowing agents and analysts at the NSA to search databases of email correspondence, online chat forums and sites you have browsed online. All of that is without any need for authorization at all and secondly with the accessibility to the data relating to millions of people in the world.
XKeyscore will add fuel to the fire in the debate around the world, but it will also heighten the US administration’s determination to get their hands on Edward Snowden. No wonder his father advised him only a few days ago to stay put in Moscow airport. Luckily this is no longer the Cold War, otherwise, Snowden would have been living it up in some Moscow bunker protected by the KGB. Those were the good old days. Today, he probably gets a few moments of shut-eye on an uncomfortable airport bench somewhere near gate 13.
The revelations that have been made today come at a particular timely moment as senior officials from the NSA are testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today regarding telephone call records and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978). The hearing takes place today in order to establish whether or not privacy rights of Americans have been infringed and if there has been oversight regarding the administration’s surveillance programs. It is called “Strengthening Privacy Rights and National Security: Oversight of FISA Surveillance Programs”.
The revelations and the files that have been published today show that Edward Snowden was indeed telling the truth when he stated in one of his first interviews published in the UK newspaper The Guardian: “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”.
Of course, officials from the NSA denied that doing so was possible at the time (June 2013). The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (Mike Rogers) even went as far as to declare “He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
It now turns out that XKeyscore would have enabled Snowden to just exactly what he said.
Agents at the NSA can complete a relatively short and straightforward form and provide few details as to the need for carrying out searches and thus gain access to monstrously enormous databases that can be trawled through. According to training documents for XKeyscore, there is no requirement to obtain approval either from a superior at the NSA or from a judge. Real-time access can be obtained, providing details of users’ email correspondence, website browsing and even search data, without having to get that data from other sources such as Google, Facebook, Twitter or whatever. As you are quietly writing your mails from home or the office, as you search on the web, as you browse a site, the NSA according to this new revelation can simply tap into your system using XKeyscore. It doesn’t have to go through the social networks at all.
Under FISA regulations, the NSA would have to get a legal ‘green light’ allowing it to tap into a US citizen’s correspondence or personal data (in theory, at least). However, anyone who is not a US citizen is not protected by that law. Similarly, if anyone who is a US citizen has correspondence with a foreign national that law no longer applies either and correspondence can be monitored.
The use of metadata to carry out searches
Searches to be carried out using only the name of the person, their telephone number or their IP address, or the language used
Reading every email sent by and to a person if XKeyscore has your email address
In just a few clicks and using a few pull down menus the NSA can find all correspondence in which you have been involved, copied into, or in which your name has occurred. It can be opened by the special XKeyscore-reader software program.
One element known as the DNI Presenter also enables users of Xkeyscore to read all private messages on Facebook as well as locate the IP address of everyone who has visited every site that exists on the internet. According to a report dating from 2007 by the NSA there were some 150 billion internet records archived at the NSA under the XKeyscore. Between 1 and 2 billion new records are saved every day at the NSA using this program. But, according to a former mathematician that once worked for the NSA (William Binney) the NSA had collated information regarding telephone calls and emails, resulting in about 20 trillion files.
The truth always comes out, doesn’t it at some stage? But, it’s far worse than had previously been expected. Why everybody was up in arms over the NSA requests to get hold of information from Google and Facebook is unfathomable now, isn’t it? That was just the front-shop window for the public.
Now XKeyscore has been revealed, we know that they never needed that information from those companies in the first place.
The following article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.