How NSA Tracks You (Bill Binney)

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

Anyone who is paying attention knows that the Obama FBI/DOJ used massive government surveillance powers against the Trump team during and after the election. A FISA warrant on Carter Page (and Manafort and others?) was likely used to mine stored communications of other Trump team members. Hundreds of “mysterious” unmasking requests by Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, etc. were probably used to identify US individuals captured in this data.

I think it’s entirely possible that Obama et al. thought they were doing the right (moral, patriotic) thing — they really thought that Trump might be colluding with the Russians. But as a civil libertarian and rule of law kind of guy I want to see it all come to light. I have been against this kind of thing since GWB was president — see this post from 2005!

My guess is that NSA is intercepting and storing big chunks of, perhaps almost all, US email traffic. They’re getting almost all metadata from email and phone traffic, possibly much of the actual voice traffic converted to text using voice recognition. This used to be searchable only by a limited number of NSA people (although that number grew a lot over the years; see 2013 article and LOVEINT below), but now available to many different “intel” agencies in the government thanks to Obama.

Situation in 2013: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=207195207

(Note Title 1 FISA warrant grants capability to look at all associates of target… like the whole Trump team.)

Obama changes in 2016: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/us/politics/obama-administration-set-to-expand-sharing-of-data-that-nsa-intercepts.html

NYT: “The new system would permit analysts at other intelligence agencies to obtain direct access to raw information from the N.S.A.’s surveillance to evaluate for themselves. If they pull out phone calls or email to use for their own agency’s work, they would apply the privacy protections masking innocent Americans’ information… ” HA HA HA I guess that’s what all the UNmasking was about…

More on NSA capabilities: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOVEINT (think how broad their coverage has to be for spooks to be able to spy on their wife or girlfriend)

See also FISA, EO 12333, Bulk Collection, and All That.

Wikipedia: William Edward Binney[3] is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA)[4] turned whistleblower who resigned on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency.

He was a high-profile critic of his former employers during the George W. Bush administration, and later criticized the NSA’s data collection policies during the Barack Obama administration.

From the transcript of Binney’s talk:

07:45
ways that they basically collect data
07:48
first it’s they use the corporations
07:50
that run the fiber-optic lines and they
07:53
get them to allow them to put taps on
07:55
them and I’ll show you some of the taps
07:57
where they are and and if that doesn’t
07:59
work they use the foreign government to
08:00
go at their own telecommunications
08:02
companies to do the similar thing and if
08:04
that doesn’t work they’ll tap the line
08:06
anywhere they can get to it and they
08:08
won’t even know it you know the
08:09
government’s know that communications
08:11
companies will even though they’re
08:12
tapped so that’s how they get into it
08:14
then I get into fiber lines and this is
08:17
this is a the prism program …

that was published
08:30
out of the Snowden material and they’ve
08:32
all focused on prism well prism is
08:36
really the the minor program I mean the
08:40
major program is upstream that’s where
08:42
they have the fiber-optic taps on
08:43
hundreds of places around in the world
08:45
that’s where they’re collecting off the
08:47
fiber lined all the data and storing it

2016 FISC reprimand of Obama administration. The court learned in October 2016 that analysts at the National Security Agency were conducting prohibited database searches “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.” The forbidden queries were searches of Upstream Data using US-person identifiers. The report makes clear that as of early 2017 NSA Inspector General did not even have a good handle on all the ways that improper queries could be made to the system. (Imagine Snowden-like sys admins with a variety of tools that can be used to access raw data.) Proposed remedies to the situation circa-2016/17 do not inspire confidence (please read the FISC document).

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.