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”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.