NSA targets embassies in black bag operations

(WMR)—The latest tranche of classified documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have been released in Glenn Greenwald’s book, “No Place to Hide.” The documents paint a picture of an NSA intent on capturing every digital and analog signal in the world, a program codenamed ASPHALT, or simply, “Collect-It-All.”

The book was embargoed to the media prior to its publication date with “Confidential” marked on every page of the review copies. Many journalists found the markings ironic in view of Greenwald’s stated commitment to openness and transparency. Greenwald also continued his practice of redacting certain information in order to please NSA and other government censors.

One of the most voracious users of NSA intercepts was the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, now President Obama’s National Security Adviser. Rice is quoted in a TOP SECRET/Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals (NOFORN) document as saying the bugging of the UN Security Council members’ diplomatic offices, as well as the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “helped me to know when other Permreps [Permanent Representatives] were telling the truth . . . gave us an upper hand in negotiations [on a UN resolution on UN sanctions on Iran] . . . and provided us information on various countries’ ‘red lines.’”

On May 28, 2010, NSA reported that it successfully received a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order for surveillance operations against the diplomatic missions of Gabon, Uganda, Nigeria, and Bosnia, all then-members of the UN Security Council, so that Rice would know which way the delegations were planning to vote on the Iran sanctions resolution.

NSA spying operations against specific diplomatic missions were given various code names, including MERCED for the Bulgarian embassy in Washington, NAVARRO for the Georgian embassy in Washington, NASHUA for the Indian mission to the UN in New York, MULBERRY for the Japanese mission in New York, ALAMITO for the Mexican mission in New York, FLEMING for the Slovak embassy in Washington, DOBIE for the South African mission and consulate in New York, SULPHUR for the South Korean mission in New York, REQUETTE for the Taiwan Trade Mission in New York, WESTPORT for the Venezuelan mission in New York, and NAVAJO for the Vietnamese mission in New York.

NSA operations directed against not only foreign embassies and missions to the UN, but the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, involved a number of high-tech and traditional spy-craft means. The targeting of Ban Ki-moon was carried out via the BLARNEY and XKEYSCORE programs. NSA’s HIGHLANDS program involved computer “inserts” called “beacons,” which transmit data from targeted diplomatic computers to NSA collection points.

Implants are inserted by NSA into targeted computer systems and network devices through what the NSA calls “supply-chain interdiction.” Equipment is intercepted between the manufacturer and the end-user. At a secret facility called a “load station,” devices called “beacons” are inserted clandestinely into a device’s hardware. Supply-chain interdiction is carried out with the assistance of over 80 multinational firms who are NSA’s strategic partners. These firms include Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Verizon, Oracle, Qwest, and Motorola.

Since March 7, 2013, Microsoft has permitted NSA to collect data, including personal files, stored by the firm’s Skydrive cloud service. Microsoft also permits NSA and the FBI wholesale collection of data from Skype via an NSA system codenamed PRINTAURA.

U.S. Internet backbone providers allow NSA access to seven continental United States “choke points” to “Collect-It-All” from the Internet. These access points have the following cover names: Breckenridge, Tahoe, and Sun Valley on the U.S. West Coast; Whistler in Texas; and Killington, Coppermountain, and Maverick on the East Coast.


Other NSA programs are used to collect different types of signals from the targeted computers and data networks within embassies and UN missions. These include MAGNETIC, the collection of magnetic emanations from data equipment; MINERALIZE, the collection of data from local area network (LAN) equipment; OCEAN, an acronym for Optical Collection System for Raster-Based Computer Screens; LIFESAVER, the imaging of computer hard drives; GENIE, a multi-stage collection operation involving the “jumping” of the airgap between physically unconnected systems; BLACKHEART, the collection of data from a Federal Bureau of Investigation implant; DROPMIRE, the passive collection of emanations from an antenna and laser printer collection; CUSTOMS, the collection of computer data by Customs agents at border crossings; DEWSWEEPER, the collection of data from a Universal Serial Bus connected to a wireless bridge; and RADON, the use of Ethernet taps to inject packets to enable bi-directional sniffing of “denied,” meaning secured, networks.

NSA provides funding to authorized third party signals intelligence agencies to help “collect-it-all” in locations around the world. These third party agencies include those of Canada, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey. Other third party allies of NSA are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Romania, Singapore, Algeria, Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, and Finland.

However, the NSA documentation states that Israel maintains “the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S.” It also states that intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel was “tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns.” Even after 9/11, the NSA states that the U.S.-Israeli Third Party CT [counter-terrorism] relationship was “driven almost totally by the needs of the partner [Israel].” In other words, Israel used 9/11 to gain as much access to NSA intelligence as possible without, in turn, providing intelligence on the perpetrators of 9/11. However, an examination of Israel’s own role in 9/11 fully explains its reticence in providing intelligence to NSA on the 9/11 perpetrators, especially in light of the fact that a number of Israelis were arrested in the U.S. for suspicion of being involved in the actual attack.

It is also unusual that another NSA slide dealing with its PRISM meta-database describes Japan’s involvement with Israel as a high-priority for NSA surveillance. Under the heading of Japan, “Trade” and “Israel” are listed as the two top priorities.

The NSA “collect-it-all” operations are so massive, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) revealed that it collected “50 billion events per day (and growing)” a few years ago. Although, Obama administration officials and U.S. intelligence chiefs have insisted that metadata, the bulk collection of data on U.S. citizens, is not analyzed without proper authorization, one newly-released document states quite plainly, “On December 21, 2012, SHELLTRUMPET processed its One-Trillionth meta-data record. SHELLTRUMPET began as a near-real-time metadata analyzer on Dec 8, 2007, for a CLASSIC collection system. In its five-year history, numerous other systems from across the Agency have come to use SHELLTRUMPET’s processing capabilities for performance monitoring, direct E-mail tip alerting, TRAFFICTHIEF tipping, and Real-Time Regional Gateway (RTRG) filtering and ingest.”

SHELLTRUMPET’s capabilities strongly suggest that NSA is not merely storing bulk metadata but monitoring its contents in near-real-time.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2014 WayneMadenReport.com

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required)

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