Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Ambinder On XKEYSCORE

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 31, 2013

He argues that XKEYSCORE is not a collection tool but a fancy way of searching through data that was already collected:

XKEYSCORE is not a thing that DOES collecting; it’s a series of user interfaces, backend databases, servers and software that selects certain types of metadata that the NSA has ALREADY collected using other methods. XKEYSCORE, as D.B. Grady and I reported in our book, is the worldwide base level database for such metadata. XKEYSCORE is useful because it gets the “front end full take feeds” from the various NSA collection points around the world and importantly, knows what to do with it to make it responsive to search queries. As the presentation says, the stuff itself is collected by some entity called F6 and something else called FORNSAT and then something with the acronym SSO.

Deciphered, F6 means a Special Collection Service site located in a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. The stuff is shunted by these sites to the SCS’s headquarters in Beltsville, Maryland, because the F6 sites are located in countries where it would be impossible to use regular telephonic or fiber optic cables to send it back to HQ. I should probably refrain from being more specific. FORNSAT simply means “foreign satellite collection,” which refers to NSA tapping into satellites that process data used by other countries. And SSO — Special Source Operations — refers to the branch of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Division that taps cables, finds microwave paths, and otherwise collects data not generated by F6 or foreign satellites. Basically, everything else. The presentation suggests that the NSA collects internet traffic from 150 sites — specific facilities — worldwide.

What Ambinder doesn’t say is that increasing the effectiveness of data collection by sifting out the unwanted stuff may well be more important than collecting it. If you can’t rummage through data efficiently, collecting huge mounds of data is worse than useless.

6 Responses to “Ambinder On XKEYSCORE”

  1. Charles II said

    Not sure why Ambinder thinks Guardian hyped this. It says pretty clearly “A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search … through vast databases ….”

    As for its classification, the slide show is stamped Top Secret. Maybe that’s why Greenwald referred to it as a Top Secret program.

  2. jo6pac said

    nypd can’t be bothered to go down to arrest a bankster but have plenty of time to screw with Main Street.

    http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/08/01/have-1485-innocent-americans-been-investigated-for-researching-pressure-cookers/

    No we are not reading every email but if you looking for what we think are wrong, then look out. They can’t tell us what words are they’re looking for because it’s a secret along with the secret laws you are breaking.

    The current oath was enacted in 1884 for congress

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

  3. Stormcrow said

    What Ambinder doesn’t say is that increasing the effectiveness of data collection by sifting out the unwanted stuff may well be more important than collecting it. If you can’t rummage through data efficiently, collecting huge mounds of data is worse than useless.

    YESSSS!!!

    Which tells me that the people behind the current driftnet collection methods are amateurs. Doesn’t matter how smart their analyst worker bees are, the bosses don’t know WTF they’re doing.

    • Charles II said

      The main problem with US intelligence is poor familiarity with foreign languages, history, and politics.

      Most ironic for a country that is the melting pot of the world.

      On the other hand, if we are to believe Russell Tice, the NSA was very good at wiretapping politicians like Barack Obama.

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