(THE WASHINGTON POST) -- Recent debate over U.S. government surveillance has focused on the information that American technology companies secretly provide to the National Security Agency. But that is only one of the ways the NSA eavesdrops on international communications.
A classified NSA slide obtained by The Washington Post and published here for the first time lists “Two Types of Collection.”
One is PRISM, the NSA program that collects information from technology companies, which was first revealed in reports by the Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper last month. The slide also shows a separate category labeled “Upstream,” described as accessing “communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.”
The interaction between Upstream and PRISM — which could be considered “downstream” collection because the data is already processed by tech companies — is not entirely clear from the slide. In addition, its description of PRISM as “collection directly from the servers” of technology giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook has been disputed by many of the companies involved. (They say access to user data is legal and limited).
However PRISM works, the NSA slide makes clear that the two collection methods operate in parallel, instructing analysts that “You Should Use Both.” Arrows point to both “Upstream” and “PRISM.”
The overall heading of the slide is “FAA 702 Operations” – a reference to a 2008 law that enabled collection on U.S. soil of communications of foreigners thought to be overseas without an individual warrant from a court, including when the foreigners are communicating with someone in the United States. The law says the collection may be for a foreign intelligence purpose, which includes terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation or cyber-security.
The slide also shows a crude map of the undersea cable network that carries data from either side of North America and onto the rest of the world. As a story in Sunday’s Post made clear, these undersea cables are essential to worldwide data flows – and to the surveillance capabilities of the U.S. government and its allies. Continue reading via The Washington Post...