As ‘X-Keyscore’ Revealed, Senators Question NSA Hoovering Of Phone Records

Posted on 31 Jul 2013


The “Snowden Effect” was in full force on Wednesday as, almost simultaneously, 1) The Guardian released a new report on “X-Keyscore” – the NSA’s search engine for its massive database of emails, chats and other Internet activity; 2) the Director of National Intelligence declassified documents about its bulk collection of phone and email metadata and an example of the court authorization to collect, store and query that data; and 3) the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned members of the intelligence community about the exact nature of these programs and whether they’re worth the invasion of Americans’ privacy. The change in information access since the Edward Snowden leaks is dramatic. Watchdogs who have long had their ears pressed to the ground trying to make out the secretive moves of the intel community are now instead at a festival with multiple stages.Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian holds up a 2008 Powerpoint presentation about the X-Keyscore program – which he published nearly in full – as proof that any NSA analyst, including Edward Snowden, could easily query a massive NSA database that holds “nearly everything a user does on the Internet.” Sample searches include looking for intel by email address, phone number, files looked at, search terms used, or even cookies on a person’s computer. A slide on ” finding targets” suggests might put a person in the NSA’s crosshairs: someone “whose language is out of place for the region they are in,” “someone using encryption,” and “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” (The presentation again reinforces that anyone going to extreme measures to protect their privacy becomes a target, with use of encryption and VPN mentioned as reasons to seek information on someone.) The Powerpoint looks much like one worked up by a database vendor for a Big Data conference – but with much more references to jihad, Iraq and Osama Bin Laden. It claims “300 terrorists captured” based on intel from the tool…

Give me a key to your house and I’ll make sure no large purple snakes eat you while you sleep. I’ve already stopped 300 of them.