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Breaking down latest leaked PRISM slides claiming U.S. ‘bugged EU offices’

Jun 30, 20135 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

More top-secret PRISM slides detail NSA mass surveillance; another leak shows U.S. bugged the European Union.

Four more “top secret” PRISM data collection program slides have been made public by The Washington Post, expanding on the mass surveillance conducted by the NSA. A German magazine also saw “top secret” documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that show the European Union is yet another “target.” EU officials are furious, lashing out about Orwellian surveillance conducted by the United States.

The Post titled this slide: Analyzing information collected from private companies:

After communications information is acquired, the data are processed and analyzed by specialized systems that handle voice, text, video and “digital network information” that includes the locations and unique device signatures of targets.

 Slide: The Washington Post

“From the FBI’s interception unit on the premises of private companies, the information is passed to one or more ‘customers’ at the NSA, CIA or FBI,” states The Post annotation for the slide.

PRINTAURA automates the traffic flow. SCISSORS and Protocol Exploitation sort data types for analysis in NUCLEON (voice), PINWALE (video), MAINWAY (call records) and MARINA (Internet records). The systems identified as FALLOUT and CONVEYANCE appear to be a final layer of filtering to reduce the intake of information about Americans.

“After communications information is acquired, the data are processed and analyzed by specialized systems that handle voice, text, video and ‘digital network information’ that includes the locations and unique device signatures of targets.” The Post suggested that, according to another slide, “Depending on the provider, the NSA may receive live notifications when a target logs on or sends an e-mail, or may monitor a voice, text or voice chat as it happens.” As of April 5, 2013, another slide shows “there were 117,675 active surveillance targets in PRISM’s counterterrorism database.”

NSA surveillance: U.S. allegedly ‘bugged EU offices’

Meanwhile, the German magazine Der Spiegel cited a “top secret” 2010 NSA document, obtained by Edward Snowden, which called the European Union a “target.” The document talks about the NSA bugging EU offices, internal networks in Washington and at the United Nations, in order to listen to conversations, phone calls and access emails and documents.

EU officials are furious, issuing statements such as, “We need a guarantee from the very highest level that it stops immediately.” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn also told Der Spiegel: “If these reports are true, it’s abhorrent. It would seem that the [U.S.] secret services have gotten out of control. The U.S. should monitor their own secret services rather than their allies…The U.S. justifies everything as being part of the fight against terrorism. But the EU and its diplomats are not terrorists.” Neither are her citizens, but welcome to the mass surveillance party!

“If media reports are correct, then it is reminiscent of methods used by enemies during the Cold War,” said German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. She added, “It defies belief that our friends in the U.S. see the Europeans as their enemies. There has to finally be an immediate and comprehensive explanation from the U.S. as to whether media reports about completely unacceptable surveillance measures of the U.S. in the EU are true or not. Comprehensive spying on Europeans by Americans cannot be allowed.”

“The spying has reached dimensions that I didn’t think were possible for a democratic country. Such behavior among allies is intolerable,” stated Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in European Parliament. “Once the land of the free,” the U.S. “is suffering from a security syndrome. They have completely lost all balance. George Orwell is nothing by comparison.”

Reuters added that Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said if the report is correct then it will have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the US. “On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the U.S. authorities with regard to these allegations.”

Another leaker claims 7 EU countries conspiring with U.S. over mass surveillance

Lastly, another leaker came forward, but The Guardian took down an article pending further investigation; it was, however, duplicated on Pastebin. Wayne Madsen, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and former NSA contractor, allegedly said that “at least six European Union countries in addition to Britain have been colluding with the U.S. over the mass harvesting of personal communications data.”

Madsen added, “A lot of this information isn’t secret, nor is it new. It’s just that governments have chosen to keep the public in the dark about it.” He was tired of a “half story” being told and alarmed about the “sanctimonious outcry” of political leaders. “The days when they could get away with a conspiracy of silence are over.”

DOJ closing in on Stuxnet leaker

Lastly, remember when the feds were hunting down the Stuxnet leaker? The DOJ is investigating retired Marine General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for potentially leaking classified cyberattack information about Stuxnet.

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  • NSA whistleblower Snowden: Even innocent Americans are ‘being watched and recorded’
  • It’s hitting the fan: Anger mounts over PRISM, NSA spying scandals
  • Reporters threatened with CFAA, labeled hackers for finding security hole
  • Hacking and attacking automated homes
  • Schools scan students’ irises, then notify parents of opt out choice afterward
  • Rule of 7 applied to domestic surveillance

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.