In light of another breathtaking NSA revelation — from "a career intelligence officer" exposing the U.S. government's PRISM collaboration with U.S. Internet companies based on "a gross intrusion on privacy" including a spy operation that "can watch your ideas form as you type" — the hacking collective Anonymous has retaliated, naturally, against the National Security Agency, a long-time nemesis. Friday morning's leak of 13 NSA documents, which Anonymous claims "prove that the NSA is spying on you," result in mostly intelligible government gibberish — goofy graphics included — but one of the most fascinating documents led us to a whistleblower site called Cryptome, which suggests the PRISM program has been around since at least 2006, and maybe as early as 2003.
PRISM, like the NSA's phone metadata collection reported the night before, is thought to have started in 2007 under the Bush administration — as a technical fix to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, one of several measures by Congress after the creation of the PATRIOT Act. But according to a resumé apparently obtained by Cryptome — a site called the "Google of National Security" for hosting national-security documents, including this information relating to PRISM — the tech company/government PRISM data share has been around since 2003, as one of the bullet points reads:
Imagery Collection Manager
Joint Interagency Task Force East
March 2003 – April 2005 (2 years 2 months)
Responsible for the collection of all imagery related intelligence requirements. Evaluated, edited, and drafted national and theater-level requirements for validation and approval via requirements tools, including PRISM and GIMS (RMS).
It's unclear how seriously to take this information, of course. This government funded start-up allegedly behind the technology wasn't founded until 2004 — though, the responsibilities of an applicant for this position with PRISM could have started in 2004 or 2005.
Other than that, the Anonymous documents don't provide much more clarification on the PRISM program. None of the documents, all found here, specifically mentions PRISM, but as Bruce Schneier explained at The Atlantic, that's just one of the many domestic-surveillance and data-mining programs at the NSA's disposal. He says the government "deliberately using different codenames for similar programs to stymie oversight and conceal what's really going on."
Many of the new PRISM documents, however, mention GiG — the Global Information Grid — which Anonymous alleges....
Will enable the secure, agile, robust, dependable, interoperable data sharing environment for the Department where warfighter, business, and intelligence users share knowledge on a global network that facilitates information superiority, accelerates decision-making, effective operations, and Net-Centric transformation.
On the NSA's publicly accessible website, the agency describes GiG as such:
The overarching objective of the GIG vision is to provide the National Command Authority (NCA), warfighters, DoD personnel, Intelligence Community, business, policy-makers, and non-DoD users with information superiority, decision superiority, and full-spectrum dominance.
In other words, GiG is the means by which the government collects data, as the leaked 2008 Department of Defense NetOps Strategic Vision further explains:
The GIG includes all owned and leased communications and computing systems and services, software (including applications), data, security services, and other associated services necessary to achieve Information Superiority. It also includes National Security Systems as defined in section 5142 of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. The GIG supports all Department of Defense, National Security, and related Intelligence Community missions and functions (strategic, operational, tactical, and business), in war and in peace. The GIG provides capabilities from all operating locations (bases, posts, camps, stations, facilities, mobile platforms, and deployed sites). The GIG provides interfaces to coalition, allied, and non-DoD users and systems
While the documents spend a lot of time talking about the collection and processing of data (and metadata!), there is not much mention of who and where — so it's hard to tell if anything illegal is going on. But if the last two days are any indication, the leakers might be coming out of the woodwork, and after the contentious relationship between Anonymous and the NSA over the years, the wooden walls may be crumbling fast.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.