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Reportedly, the majority of emails into or out of the United States are captured at "selected communications links" and automatically analyzed for keywords or other "selectors". Emails that do not match are deleted. The utility of such a massive metadata collection in preventing terrorist attacks is disputed. Many studies reveal the dragnet like system to be ineffective. One such report, released by the New America Foundation concluded that after an analysis of terrorism cases, the NSA "had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.
Defenders of the program said that while metadata alone can't provide all the information necessary to prevent an attack, it assures the ability to "connect the dots"  between suspect foreign numbers and domestic numbers with a speed only the NSA's software is capable of. One benefit of this is quickly being able to determine the difference between suspicious activity and real threats. Alexander mentioned at the annual Cybersecurity Summit in , that metadata analysis of domestic phone call records after the Boston Marathon bombing helped determine that rumors of a follow-up attack in New York were baseless.
In addition to doubts about its effectiveness, many people argue that the collection of metadata is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
As of [update] , the collection process remains legal and grounded in the ruling from Smith v. A prominent opponent of the data collection and its legality is U. District Judge Richard J. Leon , who issued a report in  in which he stated: Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment".
As of May 7, , the U. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the interpretation of Section of the Patriot Act was wrong and that the NSA program that has been collecting Americans' phone records in bulk is illegal.
This ruling "is the first time a higher-level court in the regular judicial system has reviewed the N. Under the Upstream program, the NSA paid telecommunications companies between 9 and 95 million dollars in order to collect data from them.
In a declassified document it was revealed that 17, phone lines were on an improperly permitted "alert list" from to in breach of compliance, which tagged these phone lines for daily monitoring. Domestically, the NSA has been proven to collect and store metadata records of phone calls,  including over million US Verizon subscribers ,  as well as intercept vast amounts of communications via the internet Upstream.
Federal agents are then instructed to "recreate" the investigative trail via parallel construction. The NSA also spies on influential Muslims to obtain information that could be used to discredit them, such as their use of pornography.
The targets, both domestic and abroad, are not suspected of any crime but hold religious or political views deemed "radical" by the NSA. The newspaper said it had examined documents including emails, text messages, and online accounts that support the claim. Despite White House claims that these programs have congressional oversight, many members of Congress were unaware of the existence of these NSA programs or the secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, and have consistently been denied access to basic information about them.
The NSA has "generally disregarded the special rules for disseminating United States person information" by illegally sharing its intercepts with other law enforcement agencies. Legal opinions on the NSA's bulk collection program have differed. In mid-December , U. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the "almost-Orwellian" program likely violates the Constitution, and wrote, "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.
Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware 'the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,' would be aghast.
Later that month, U. District Judge William Pauley ruled that the NSA's collection of telephone records is legal and valuable in the fight against terrorism. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly. Clapper, in response to criticism, said, "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner. NSA whistler-blower Edward Snowden additionally revealed the existence of XKeyscore , a top secret NSA program that allows the agency to search vast databases of "the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history," with capability to search by "name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.
Regarding the necessity of these NSA programs, Alexander stated on June 27 that the NSA's bulk phone and Internet intercepts had been instrumental in preventing 54 terrorist "events", including 13 in the US, and in all but one of these cases had provided the initial tip to "unravel the threat stream".
An October United Nations report condemned mass surveillance by the United States and other countries as violating multiple international treaties and conventions that guarantee core privacy rights. An exploit, EternalBlue , which is believed to have been created by the NSA, was used in the unprecedented worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack in May The exploit had been leaked online by a hacking group, The Shadow Brokers , nearly a month prior to the attack.
A number of experts have pointed the finger at the NSA's non-disclosure of the underlying vulnerability, and their loss of control over the EternalBlue attack tool that exploited it. Edward Snowden said that if the NSA had " privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they found it, not when they lost it, [the attack] might not have happened". Its capabilities were suspected to include the ability to monitor a large proportion of the world's transmitted civilian telephone, fax and data traffic.
During the early s, the first of what became more than eight large satellite communications dishes were installed at Menwith Hill. Alleged Echelon-related activities, including its use for motives other than national security, including political and industrial espionage , received criticism from countries outside the UKUSA alliance. Those targeted had not committed any apparent crime nor were they charged with one.
In order to support its facial recognition program, the NSA is intercepting "millions of images per day". The Real Time Regional Gateway is a data collection program introduced in in Iraq by NSA during the Iraq War that consisted of gathering all electronic communication, storing it, then searching and otherwise analyzing it.
It was effective in providing information about Iraqi insurgents who had eluded less comprehensive techniques. Alexander , is believed by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian to be the model for the comprehensive worldwide mass archiving of communications which NSA is engaged in as of Initially, it was reported that some of these data reflected eavesdropping on citizens in countries like Germany, Spain and France,  but later on, it became clear that those data were collected by European agencies during military missions abroad and were subsequently shared with NSA.
XKeyscore rules as specified in a file xkeyscorerules When my oldest son was asked the same question: Then he was sort of in the legal free. He had given the right answer, everybody understood that the NSA had approached him. IBM Notes was the first widely adopted software product to use public key cryptography for client—server and server—server authentication and for encryption of data.
Until US laws regulating encryption were changed in , IBM and Lotus were prohibited from exporting versions of Notes that supported symmetric encryption keys that were longer than 40 bits.
In , Lotus negotiated an agreement with the NSA that allowed export of a version that supported stronger keys with 64 bits, but 24 of the bits were encrypted with a special key and included in the message to provide a "workload reduction factor" for the NSA.
This strengthened the protection for users of Notes outside the US against private-sector industrial espionage , but not against spying by the US government. While it is assumed that foreign transmissions terminating in the U. They intercept routers , servers and other network hardware being shipped to organizations targeted for surveillance and install covert implant firmware onto them before they are delivered.
This was described by an NSA manager as "some of the most productive operations in TAO because they preposition access points into hard target networks around the world. Computers seized by the NSA due to interdiction are often modified with a physical device known as Cottonmouth.
NSA's mission, as set forth in Executive Order in , is to collect information that constitutes "foreign intelligence or counterintelligence" while not "acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons ". NSA has declared that it relies on the FBI to collect information on foreign intelligence activities within the borders of the United States, while confining its own activities within the United States to the embassies and missions of foreign nations.
NSA's domestic surveillance activities are limited by the requirements imposed by the Fourth Amendment to the U. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for example held in October , citing multiple Supreme Court precedents, that the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the contents of all communications, whatever the means, because "a person's private communications are akin to personal papers.
Title 1 , 2 , and 9 specifically authorized measures that would be taken by the NSA. These titles granted enhanced domestic security against terrorism, surveillance procedures, and improved intelligence, respectively. They threatened to resign over the matter, but ultimately the NSA's programs continued. This allowed the president to be able to override laws such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act , which protected civilians from mass surveillance.
In addition to this, President Bush also signed that the measures of mass surveillance were also retroactively in place. Internet-based communication service providers: Data gathered include email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, VoIP chats such as Skype, and file transfers.
Besides the more traditional ways of eavesdropping in order to collect signals intelligence, NSA is also engaged in hacking computers, smartphones and their networks. These operations are conducted by the Tailored Access Operations TAO division, which has been active since at least circa According to the Foreign Policy magazine, " In an interview with Wired magazine, Edward Snowden said the Tailored Access Operations division accidentally caused Syria 's internet blackout in Each of these directorates consisted of several groups or elements, designated by a letter.
These groups were divided in units designated by an additional number, like unit A5 for breaking Soviet codes, and G6, being the office for the Middle East, North Africa, Cuba, Central and South America. As of [update] , NSA has about a dozen directorates, which are designated by a letter, although not all of them are publicly known.
The directorates are divided in divisions and units starting with the letter of the parent directorate, followed by a number for the division, the sub-unit or a sub-sub-unit. The main elements of the organizational structure of the NSA are: The chiefs of other main NSA divisions became associate directors of the senior leadership team. After president George W. Both units were part of the Signals Intelligence Directorate.
NSANet is a highly secured computer network consisting of fiber-optic and satellite communication channels which are almost completely separated from the public Internet. The network allows NSA personnel and civilian and military intelligence analysts anywhere in the world to have access to the agency's systems and databases.
This access is tightly controlled and monitored. For example, every keystroke is logged, activities are audited at random and downloading and printing of documents from NSANet are recorded. As a system administrator, Snowden was responsible for moving accidentally misplaced highly sensitive documents to safer storage locations.
The number of NSA employees is officially classified  but there are several sources providing estimates. In , NSA had 59, military and civilian employees, which grew to 93, in , of which 19, worked at the headquarters at Fort Meade. In the early s NSA had roughly 50, military and civilian personnel. By this number had grown again to 75,, of which 25, worked at the NSA headquarters.
Between and the NSA's budget and workforce were cut by one third, which led to a substantial loss of experience. Inglis , the deputy director, said that the total number of NSA employees is "somewhere between 37, and one billion" as a joke,  and stated that the agency is "probably the biggest employer of introverts.
As of about 1, system administrators work for the NSA. Investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee and a special subcommittee of the United States House Committee on Armed Services revealed severe cases of ignorance in personnel security regulations, prompting the former personnel director and the director of security to step down and leading to the adoption of stricter security practices. The very same day, an NSA clerk-messenger committed suicide as ongoing investigations disclosed that he had sold secret information to the Soviets on a regular basis.
The reluctance of Congressional houses to look into these affairs had prompted a journalist to write, "If a similar series of tragic blunders occurred in any ordinary agency of Government an aroused public would insist that those responsible be officially censured, demoted, or fired. Edward Snowden 's leaking of the existence of PRISM in caused the NSA to institute a " two-man rule ", where two system administrators are required to be present when one accesses certain sensitive information.
The NSA conducts polygraph tests of employees. For new employees, the tests are meant to discover enemy spies who are applying to the NSA and to uncover any information that could make an applicant pliant to coercion. In addition the NSA conducts periodic polygraph investigations in order to find spies and leakers; those who refuse to take them may receive "termination of employment", according to a memorandum from the director of NSA. There are also "special access examination" polygraphs for employees who wish to work in highly sensitive areas, and those polygraphs cover counterintelligence questions and some questions about behavior.
Between and , of the 20, job applicants who took polygraph tests, 3. In the NSA produced a video explaining its polygraph process. After Edward Snowden revealed his identity in , the NSA began requiring polygraphing of employees once per quarter.
The number of exemptions from legal requirements has been criticized. When in the Congress was hearing a bill giving the director of the NSA the power to fire at will any employee, The Washington Post wrote: It means that an employee could be discharged and disgraced on the basis of anonymous allegations without the slightest opportunity to defend himself.
When the agency was first established, its headquarters and cryptographic center were in the Naval Security Station in Washington, D. Army 's cryptographic operations. Construction of additional buildings began after the agency occupied buildings at Ft. Meade in the late s, which they soon outgrew. NSA workers referred to the building as the "Headquarters Building" and since the NSA management occupied the top floor, workers used "Ninth Floor" to refer to their leaders.
Meade , Maryland , although it is separate from other compounds and agencies that are based within this same military installation. The Eastbound exit from the Parkway heading toward Baltimore is open to the public and provides employee access to its main campus and public access to the National Cryptology Museum. NSA is the largest employer in the state of Maryland, and two-thirds of its personnel work at Ft. The main NSA headquarters and operations building is what James Bamford , author of Body of Secrets , describes as "a modern boxy structure" that appears similar to "any stylish office building.
Capitol "could easily fit inside it four times over. The facility has over watchposts,  one of them being the visitor control center, a two-story area that serves as the entrance. The OPS2A building, the tallest building in the NSA complex and the location of much of the agency's operations directorate, is accessible from the visitor center. Bamford described it as a "dark glass Rubik's Cube ". The name refers to the "red badge" which is worn by someone without a security clearance.
The NSA headquarters includes a cafeteria, a credit union, ticket counters for airlines and entertainment, a barbershop, and a bank.
The employees at the NSA headquarters reside in various places in the Baltimore-Washington area , including Annapolis , Baltimore, and Columbia in Maryland and the District of Columbia, including the Georgetown community. Following a major power outage in , in and in follow-ups through , The Baltimore Sun reported that the NSA was at risk of electrical overload because of insufficient internal electrical infrastructure at Fort Meade to support the amount of equipment being installed.
This problem was apparently recognized in the s but not made a priority, and "now the agency's ability to keep its operations going is threatened. Meade in , and expected that an increase of 10 to 15 megawatts would be needed later that year. Meade was Maryland's largest consumer of power. NSA held a groundbreaking ceremony at Ft. NCSC was responsible for computer security throughout the federal government.
As of , NSA collected intelligence from four geostationary satellites. NSA had installations in several U. In , to protect its assets and access more electricity, NSA sought to decentralize and expand its existing facilities in Ft. Meade and Menwith Hill,  the latter expansion expected to be completed by The Yakima Herald-Republic cited Bamford, saying that many of NSA's bases for its Echelon program were a legacy system , using outdated, s technology.
A NSA report indicates that the ECC is responsible for the "largest analysis and productivity in Europe" and focuses on various priorities, including Africa, Europe, the Middle East and counterterrorism operations. Thailand is a "3rd party partner" of the NSA along with nine other nations.
It presumably eavesdrops on foreign embassies, governmental communications, and other targets of opportunity. Its mission was to eavesdrop on the radio traffic of Chinese army and air force units in southern China, especially in and around the city of Kunming in Yunnan Province. Back in the late s the base consisted only of a small CDAA antenna array that was remote-controlled via satellite from the NSA listening post at Kunia, Hawaii , and a small force of civilian contractors from Bendix Field Engineering Corp.
The base apparently fell into disrepair in the s as China and Vietnam became more friendly towards the US, and by archived satellite imagery showed that the PUSHER CDAA antenna had been torn down, perhaps indicating that the base had been closed. It is likely that the NSA presence at Khon Kaen is relatively small, and that most of the work is done by civilian contractors.
NSA has been involved in debates about public policy, both indirectly as a behind-the-scenes adviser to other departments, and directly during and after Vice Admiral Bobby Ray Inman 's directorship. NSA was a major player in the debates of the s regarding the export of cryptography in the United States. Restrictions on export were reduced but not eliminated in Its secure government communications work has involved the NSA in numerous technology areas, including the design of specialized communications hardware and software, production of dedicated semiconductors at the Ft.
Meade chip fabrication plant , and advanced cryptography research. For 50 years, NSA designed and built most of its computer equipment in-house, but from the s until about when the U. Congress curtailed the practice , the agency contracted with the private sector in the fields of research and equipment. NSA was embroiled in some minor controversy concerning its involvement in the creation of the Data Encryption Standard DES , a standard and public block cipher algorithm used by the U.
There was suspicion that these changes had weakened the algorithm sufficiently to enable the agency to eavesdrop if required, including speculation that a critical component—the so-called S-boxes —had been altered to insert a " backdoor " and that the reduction in key length might have made it feasible for NSA to discover DES keys using massive computing power.
It has since been observed that the S-boxes in DES are particularly resilient against differential cryptanalysis , a technique which was not publicly discovered until the late s but known to the IBM DES team. This small modification was suggested by NSA two years later, with no justification other than the fact that it provides additional security. An attack for SHA-0 that does not apply to the revised algorithm was indeed found between and by academic cryptographers.
Because of weaknesses and key length restrictions in SHA-1, NIST deprecates its use for digital signatures , and approves only the newer SHA-2 algorithms for such applications from on. A new hash standard, SHA-3 , has recently been selected through the competition concluded October 2, with the selection of Keccak as the algorithm. The process to select SHA-3 was similar to the one held in choosing the AES, but some doubts have been cast over it,   since fundamental modifications have been made to Keccak in order to turn it into a standard.
National Institute of Standards and Technology 's guidelines. This led to speculation of a backdoor which would allow NSA access to data encrypted by systems using that pseudo random number generator. This is now deemed to be plausible based on the fact that output of next iterations of PRNG can provably be determined if relation between two internal elliptic curve points is known. What worked best for us was to go after the vulnerable, but attractive women.
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