‘Every Stroke you Type’: Greenwald Reveals Xkeyscore, Vindicating Snowden

When Edward Snowden went public, he alleged that as a low-level analyst, he could see you type your emails in real time:

“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”.”

Snowden was repeatedly called a liar by Washington DC insiders like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who denied that Americans’ emails are being collected or examined by the NSA. Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald charges that Rogers, whose political campaigns receive contributions from security-linked firms, is simply lying through his teeth to the American people.

Glenn Greenwald now reveals the exact software program about which Snowden was speaking, called Xkeyscore.

Greenwald writes:

” training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.”

George Stephanopoulos at ABC News interviews Greenwald on Xkeyscore:

This explosive revelation produced a frenzy on the television channels that obsess for weeks over small town murder mysteries (1 of 16,000 a year in the US), right? The ones that interview Mike Rogers and Peter King for hours on end?

Not so much.

I did a Lexis search under broadcast news for XKeyscore and got 7 hits, including CNN and PBS. Of course, some broadcasts may have described the program rather than naming it, as ABC did. All the more kudos to George Stephanopoulos, Chris Hayes and other television journalists willing to headline the story.

That Snowden was right in general became clear when The Guardian revealed the Tempora program, run by the British electronic spying agency GCHQ in partnership with the US National Security Agency. They have attached sniffers to the fiber optic cables that carry telephone and email traffic across the Atlantic and are collecting petabytes of data. Since your email doesn’t just go straight between you and your correspondent, but rather can bounce around servers all over the world, Tempora is certainly scooping up most of our emails and many of our telephone calls. There are 250 NSA analysts assigned to going through this data.

11 Responses

  1. The really sad thing is how uninterested the American public seems to be about these revelations. Since the Bush II regime I have assumed the US spy apparat suctions every email and browser action of everyone on the internet. And strange people like Toobin want Snowdon executed as a traitor for alerting the US public that they are being spied on by their own government. My respect for Toobin evaporated over his Snowdon fixation and totalitarian mindset.

    • Yes, that struck me as well. I fear we are very close to the point of no return; act now or forever live with the NSA.
      On another note; it’s really encouraging to see Snowden’s father’s change of heart. He sees with clear eyes now…

    • Snowden WOULD have been a hero if he had stuck to revealing the spying on US citizens by our government. That spying is a violation of the Constitution, no matter how the government tries to justify that they gave themselves permission to do so or that it’s OK because they’ve gotten some good data from it. Unfortunately, Snowden didn’t stop there, but rather chose to make public some of our intelligence activities abroad.

  2. My wife and I just had to replace all of our credit cards (not just one) because someone obtained the numbers and began making fraudulent charges. Who was the culprit? Was it an NSA employee or contractor with financial problems? It sounds like XKeyscore would allow an enterprising individual to capture CC numbers as easily as any other data. (“Would you like to use our secure server? Hahahahahah!”)

    Of course, that would be a betrayal of the individual’s oath or contract – just like everything Edward Snowden or Pvt. Manning did.

    • Previously you would be dismissed as paranoid for asking questions like that. If your CC numbers are stolen, obviously it’s a Russian or Chinese gang.

      Well now you don’t sound so paranoid.

      Here’s the thing: I think it’s pretty unlikely that any NSA contractor would actually use the CC numbers themselves for quick financial gain.

      But in the dark net, there are plenty of marketplaces where CC numbers are traded by the thousand. It would not surprise me in the least if some rogue NSA contractor is harvesting CC numbers and selling them in bulk. He would have to be careful to only harvest numbers when the users have accidentally sent them in plain text or something, but even so there would be thousands every day.

      The key thing is that the system they have makes this possible. Whether or not it has happened yet is irrelevant.

  3. Does anyone reading or posting here happen to know how “NSA analysts” are trained, what the content and direction of that training is, and what-all they are tasked to do? What are they supposed to look for and be sensitized to and report?

    What kind of stuff DO they flag and “report,” and to whom? Who-all gets to see that stuff? Have there been any “adverse personnel actions” for e.g. disclosing information to e.g. “business interests,” like trade secrets ‘n things that might gift some corporate person with a nice bidness advantage? Or is that a feature of the system? Any J. Edgar-type dossier-assembly abuses amongst all the Hoovering up of all those data bits? Any little local networks amongst the analysts to trade gossip bits and porn shots ‘n stuff?

    I’m sure there are some systems analysis types who would have pertinent and perspicacious questions to ask about what our Brave New Spooks are up to. That’s above my pay grade, but I would like to know what they think…

    We mopes accept terms like “analyst” blindly, as if each of those people who “earn” that kind of access and potential control over our “freedom’n’liberty’n’democracy” ™ lives are paragons of civic virtue who would never stoop to blackmail or espionage or what the rest of us might complain about as abuse of authority of any sort. That nice neutral “analyst” would NEVER do anything bad — their bosses would make SURE of that!

    And are any of them, like many a GI who finds to his surprise that following orders to kill wogs and maybe even fellow citizens, and other duties like crushing public dissent, are inconsistent with his inclinations and his Soldier’s Oath, occasionally overwhelmed by the enormity of their ability to snoop and pry and extirpate the vestiges of the social contract that the people they peep at are still, stupidly, thinking somehow protects them from oligarchic abuse and oppression and the descent back into serfdom or outright slavery?

    Or have the institutions we have paid the costs of developing and maintaining and “enhancing” really jumped over all the barriers and norms and structures, like that “quaint” Constitution that so many of us seem to still beeeleeeeeve in, limits that most of us think are somehow still “operative?” Or are most of us too distracted by the noise of the entertaining parts of the Matrix, or too pre-occupied trying to keep our and our families’ heads above the rising waters of a wealth-stealing “economy” to be able to focus on or manage additional concerns about? To the point that some recognize that Quislings and informers and that whole horrid set of sociopaths that profit from “authoritarian” rule have signed up to do their dirtiest against the interests of the rest of us?

    On the other hand, any more, looking around at the mess we have made as a species that craps in its own nest and dining room and eats its own young and gives the highest rewards to those who steal the most and kill the most and the whole cadre of freakin’ hypocrites that rule us, maybe we should be cheering the accelerating downhill charge toward the cliff…

    • Snowden’s own self professed qualifications are a pretty good indicator. A talent for IT and little else apparently…

  4. Waitaminute here. “Snowdon was right” because Glenn Greennwald reported on the same story that Snowdon told – to Greenwald?? In both cases, Snowdon was the source.

    Moreover, the NSA has been tapping the fiber optic trunks at the major carriers for over a decade. They installed special rooms AT the carriers’ communication centers and got a full, 100% feed of all traffic. This has been going on for over a decade; computer geek-types were all over it from the beginning. It’s old, old news. It was part of the creepy “Total Information Access” program run by the Bush (the Lesser) administration. Formally “killed” by Congress, the program has evidently continued under different names and funding.

  5. Has anyone else had their computer “temporarily” shut down and restart when going on the Glenn Greenwald twitter site? It doesn’t happen with other webpages. In the past I would have joked that someone was “watching” (and for some reason having to shut down and restart to “save” my search information). Now I’m pretty sure it’s no joke.

    That’s the before and after Snowden difference.

    • run an anti-virus program and try updating your browser. Sounds to me like something in the Twitter code hanging it up– script running or something.

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