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List of Snowden’s NSA Revelations

NSA Revelations provided by Snowden’s Leaks

Snowden’s leaks reveal the unprecedented scope of NSA surveillance.

An illustration picture shows the logo of the U.S. National Security Agency on the display of an iPhone in Berlin









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How the NSA Spies

-XKeyscore system:

An NSA tool that collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’. It allows analysts to search the ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data including emails, social media activity and browsing history without authorization or review by a court or any NSA personnel.


-Prism program:

Program gives the NSA direct access the servers of Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google and Apple to collect massive amounts of data from internet companies such as email content, search histories and file transfers. Unlike the Verizon court-ordered collaboration, the government can access live information, photos, video chats and data from social networks directly through the companies’ servers without required consent or individual court orders


-Boundless Informant

A tool that allows the NSA to compile and track the “metadata” it collects around the world. In the month of March alone, nearly 3 billion pieces of information were collected from US networks and 97 billion pieces worldwide. The program revealed that despite assurances to Congress to the contrary, the NSA does keep track of the surveillance it performs on US citizens.


-Tap smartphone data

The NSA can access contacts lists, SMS, user location and more on the three most popular mobile platforms.


-Monitor international financial transactions:

The ‘Follow the Money’ branch of the NSA has several means of accessing the internal data traffic of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a cooperative used by more than 8,000 banks worldwide for their international transactions. The NSA also has in-depth knowledge of the internal processes of credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard.


-Defeat internet privacy and security encryption:

Through a $250m-a-year US program, the NSA works covertly with tech companies to insert secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software, allowing them to unlock the encryption when used to protect emails, banking and medical records. The NSA describes strong decryption programs as the “price of admission for the US to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace”. Security experts say programs ‘undermine the fabric of the internet’.


–Pay other spy agencies:

The NSA pays $150 million in secret funding to GCHQ, its UK counterpart, to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programs and take advantage of weaker regulation of British spies.

The UK shares the information the GCHQ is tapping from the 200 fiber-optic cables laid beneath the Atlantic Ocean   with the NSA, giving the US spy agency unlimited access to GCHQ data.


-NSA disguised itself as Google to spy

The NSA utilizes a technique commonly used by hackers, called a MITM attack, which involves posing as a legitimate Web service to intercept data and passwords that an unsuspecting person sends to that service. Passwords can be used to log into the real site and serve as a “man in the middle,” collecting all the data between the individual and the site.


Who the NSA Spies on


– Verizon customers

The Obama administration ordered Verizon to hand over call information on a daily basis, including the time, location and duration of calls for millions of its customers.


-Foreign embassies

A 2007 document named 38 embassies and missions that were “targets” of US surveillance in order to gain insider knowledge of diplomatic relations. Tactics included bugging fax machines with listening devices and telecommunications hacking. The list of countries targeted included the member countries of the EU, India, Mexico, Greece and Turkey as well as the traditional enemies of the US.


-Presidents of Brazil and Mexico

NSA documents that were part of an NSA case study showing how data could be “intelligently” filtered, reveal access to the presidents’ private communications.


-Petrobras oil company:

The NSA hacked into the oil giant’s internal computer network, contradicting statements by the NSA denying espionage for economic purposes.


-The UN

The NSA decoded and secretly monitored the internal video conferencing system at the U.N.’s headquarters in New York last year.


-Al Jazeera Broadcasting

The NSA was able hack into Al Jazeera’s systems to access and read the Arab news broadcaster’s communications.



Documents reveal that the NSA collected over 13.5 billion pieces of information in just one month making India the number one target among the so-called BRICS countries.



The NSA hacked networks at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange and Hong Kong’s main terminal for all internet traffic. The agency also targeted Tsinghua University, which is one of six backbone networks that comprise the China Education and Research Network (CERNET), through which internet data for millions of Chinese can be accessed. The system is the largest national research hub in the world. The US also hacked the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, a privately-owned company that provides the majority of fiber-optic cables in the Asia Pacific and has stations across the region. Most Pacnet cables bring internet connections to and from the United States, where some of the world’s largest cloud computing and internet search engines are based.


Additional NSA leaks:


-Audit finds NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times

Transgressions ranged from serious legal violations to typos that led to unintended data collection


-NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by the Israeli government and only official US government communications protected.


-National Intelligence Program “Black Budget”

Formally known as the Congressional Budget Justification for the National Intelligence Program, the $52.6 billion “black budget” for 2013 maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. The budget reveals that spending by the CIA has surged past that of every other spy agency, with $14.7 billion in requested funding for 2013. The CIA and the NSA have begun aggressive new efforts to hack into foreign computer networks to steal information or sabotage enemy systems, embracing what the budget refers to as “offensive cyber operations.” US intelligence officials take an active interest in friends as well as foes. Pakistan is described in detail as an “intractable target,” and counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel.”

Black budget in pictures:


-US judges sign of on domestic communications “inadvertently” collected by NSA without a warrant

The FISA court allows the NSA to keep (and make use of) information inadvertently gathered on US citizens for a period of up to five years — without a warrant — but only if the information is deemed to be relevant in preventing national security threats or to aid further investigations. The information can be sent to allied governments or foreign organizations, so long as the person’s identity is anonymous.