Aptly Applying The Logic Of Freedom

The domestic cable tapping is part of NSA’s Upstream collection program, which is primarily used for access to communications between foreigners or foreign targets and possible conspirators inside the US. By cross-referencing, this can point to conspirators that were previously unknown. A phone system can be setup to make appointments for a service business. But it also has additional features that make it a reliable tool for many different people or agencies. This would make that 21 petabytes of data flow past these systems every day. So, although these NSA systems “see” a huge amount of data, there’s certainly no “Store it All”. In recently published charts from NSA’s BOUNDLESSINFORMANT tool about France, Spain, Norway and Afghanistan we see the mysterious term DRTBOX. From the BOUNDLESSINFORMANT tool and some other charts we know that NSA collects billions of data a day. The NSA itself issued a statement (pdf) in August 2013 saying that about 30 petabytes a day pass their collection systems, which filter out and store about 7,3 terabyte. In the past year we really learned a lot about the methods and the collection programs of the NSA. The codenames for these domestic programs are FAIRVIEW, BLARNEY and STORMBREW, and under OAKSTAR, American telecoms are providing cable intercept facilities abroad.

Also in 2006 it was disclosed that NSA had installed intercept devices at switching stations of major fiber-optic cables inside the United States. Although it reportedly has access to 200 fiber-optic cables, the agency is only able intercept 46 cables of 10 gigabits/second at a time. It has been a very long time since the general public has developed a crazy for an electronic device. This is the information needed for the technical and administrative handling of communications, like the calling and the called phone numbers, and the time and duration of a call. These networks come with excellent mobile schemes so as to subsidize call rates and attract a person’s attention. Some phones that are sold by network carriers come with SIM cards and some do not. Placing calls on cellular phones has come to reflect the same call quality as stationary landline phones. This allows the call to be routed to the agents only when live callers are on the line. This shows that this oversight mechanism isn’t the mere “rubber stamp” as Snowden and Greenwald continuously call it. One of the major accusations of Snowden and Greenwald is that NSA is indiscriminately gathering and storing electronic communications from all over the world.

But in the media, the facts that arise from the original documents have often been instrumentalized for the ideological fight between Snowden and Greenwald on one side and the NSA and the US government at the other side. Snowden additionally warns against the (future) misuse that can be made from this kind of systems in general, also in other countries worldwide. Before XKEYSCORE was installed, there were only the more traditional systems that automatically filter out content when there is a match with so-called “strong selectors” like e-mail and IP addresses. There are thousands of productivity applications (‘apps’) that help get work done more efficiently and while on the move. Should NSA be allowed to request phone metadata from the telecom companies, as proposed in the USA FREEDOM Act, then they would get ability to access virtually all records again. The collection of metadata is even more controversial than storing content.

On May 7, 2015, a US federal appeals court ruled that NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata overstretches the meaning and therefore violates the USA Patriot Act. But also in this case, the storage of communication data is limited to thirty days, and from the networks of three countries (Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines) this only applies to metadata. The fact that the FISA Court decides behind closed doors is also not a scandalous exception, as the same applies to grand juries in ordinary crime cases. At least in this case, NSA seems to be able to “Store it All”, but there’s no “Analyse it All”. Cisco estimates that in 2013 there was some 181 petabyte of consumer web, email, and data traffic a day, which means that roughly 16% passes through NSA systems, which eventually store 0,00004% of it. This is less than 5% of the internet communications that passes NSA’s front-end filters. GCHQ’s umbrella program to tap, filter and search internet traffic is codenamed TEMPORA.