Inside the Ring: More NSA leaks

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U.S. intelligence officials are braced for more disclosures of National Security Agency eavesdropping secrets from renegade contractor Edward Snowden, who is seeking asylum in Venezuela.

New details from Mr. Snowden, who was still in a Moscow airport transit lounge on Wednesday, appeared Sunday. Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine and Brazil’s O Globo newspaper published new details about NSA electronic intelligence gathering, including two code names for programs that had not been made public before.

In an email interview with video maker Laura Poitras and journalist Jacob Appelbaum, Mr. Snowden revealed that the NSA works with German intelligence and other Western governments to track down terrorists and other criminal suspects.

“We [NSA] warn the others when someone we want to catch is using one of their airports, and they then extradite him to us,” he stated. “We can have obtained the information for that, for example, from the monitored cellphone of the girlfriend of a suspected hacker who has used it in an entirely different country that has nothing to do with the matter.”

Mr. Snowden said the NSA’s Foreign Affairs Directorate is the main liaison.

China this week showed off a new air-to-air missile loaded inside the weapons bay of the People's Liberation Army J-20 stealth fighter jet. The weapons hold for the J-20 appears twice as large as that of the U.S. F-22 Raptor. (Chinese Internet and state media)

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China this week showed off a new air-to-air missile loaded inside the ... more >

Documents published by Der Spiegel reveal that NSA gathers between 25 million and 60 million phone connections and Internet data sets a day in Germany.

Another NSA document revealed that the agency has access to bundles of fiber-optic cables with data transfer rates of several gigabytes per second, part of the Internet’s larger transit routes. That access was described as a new collection method for the NSA that allows spying on Internet servers, “including several that service the Russian market.”

Still another NSA operation monitors a cable used to transfer data from the Middle East, Europe, South America and Asia.

Asked if the NSA was involved in developing the Stuxnet computer worm that covertly attacked Iran’s industrial control networks in its nuclear program, Mr. Snowden said: “The NSA and Israel wrote Stuxnet together.”

For Britain, Mr. Snowden said the British electronic spy service GCHQ operates a program called “Tempora” that vacuums massive amounts of electronic data from around the world that is then sifted for intelligence. The system can hold three days’ worth of data for short periods.

“If you send a data packet and it goes through Great Britain, we will get it,” he said. “If you download something and the server is in Great Britain, we will get it.”

“The possibilities of the NSA are practically limitless in terms of computer power, space or cooling capacity for the computers,” he said.

On how long data is kept by the NSA, Mr. Snowden said full text data “ages very quickly, within a few days.” If an analyst flags certain data, it is kept longer, but other material is deleted.

For metadata — gathered by the NSA’s Prism program — the communications are “stored forever.” Metadata on telephone calls identify who calls whom, when, where and for how long.

“Most of the metadata are more valuable than the contents of the communications, since in most cases the contents can be recovered if you have the metadata,” Mr. Snowden said.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon ( He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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