Inside the Ring: More NSA leaks

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.

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.

People who are targeted by the NSA, mainly jihadists, are fully monitored, and the monitoring includes daily reports to NSA analysts that detail what has changed on their computers, he said.

Glenn Greenwald, the reporter for Britain’s Guardian newspaper who first disclosed documents provided by Mr. Snowden, also disclosed Sunday that the NSA conducts large-scale electronic surveillance against Brazil, including some 2.3 billion phone calls and messages that were “wiretapped.”

He reported on NSA documents in Brazil’s O Globo online newspaper that the NSA’s program code-named “Fairview” is an alliance with a U.S. telecommunications company that collects intelligence through its connections with foreign telecommunications firms, including those in Brazil.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday confirmed that his government received a formal asylum request from Mr. Snowden.

“We received a letter requesting asylum,” Mr. Maduro said, adding that the U.S. fugitive “will have to decide when to fly over here.”

CHINESE ARMS PROLIFERATION

A State Department official this week declined to comment on China’s transfer of six road- mobile, strategic missile launchers to North Korea, but said China continues to fall short in controlling illicit arms exports from Chinese “entities.”

Vann Van Diepen, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, was asked about the missile launcher transfer and whether the Obama administration planned to sanction the Chinese companies involved.

“There’s just too many sensitive details I just cannot answer that question,” Mr. Van Diepen said during a forum on the 10th anniversary of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I can’t answer that question. It just wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Rebecca Hersman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction, also declined to discuss the strategic missile launcher transfer from China to North Korea.

Appearing on the same panel with Mr. Van Diepen, Ms. Hersman earlier said that a “policy failure” in 2002 allowed a seized shipment of North Korean missiles to go on to Yemen, and that failure was the impetus for the 102-nation PSI program.

But when asked about the more recent policy failure of the Chinese missile launchers to North Korea, Ms. Hersman declined to answer, asserting “that’s not a PSI question.”

Mr. Van Diepen said later that “nonproliferation has been at the top of bilateral agenda with China for many, many years.”

“And we’ve been pressing for Chinese cooperation in these areas for a long time, and in some areas we’re getting cooperation,” he said.

For example, China agreed to U.N. Security Council resolutions targeting North Korea and Iran, and Beijing provided “a lot of important help in the proliferation area,” he said.

“But as we’ve made clear for a long time, we’ve got continuing concerns about the activities of Chinese entities in supplying equipment and technology and in facilitating the supply, and what in our view is inadequate Chinese enforcement and implementation of their export controls, of their international commitments, as regards getting these entities under their control,” Mr. Van Diepen said.

China has put rules in place to restrict arms proliferation, “but there are clearly implementation and enforcement issues,” he added.

Mr. Van Diepen said the Obama administration is encouraging the Chinese to enforce arms exports controls, but “it’s also no secret that we’ve imposed sanctions on these entities because of their proliferation-related activities.”

“We’re not where we need to be” in terms of stemming Chinese arms proliferation, he said.

As reported in this column June 27, a U.N. panel of specialists concluded last month that the missile launcher transfers from China were a “deliberate violation” of an end-user agreement. China claimed the launchers were sold as chassis for lumber trucks, an explanation that proliferation specialists dispute.

The Chinese company so far has not been sanctioned.

A U.S. law known as the 2006 Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act requires that the State Department impose sanctions on entities that make a “material contribution to WMD or cruise or ballistic missile systems” in those states.

CHINA SHOWS NEW MISSILE

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.

State-controlled media published several photos of the new jet with its bomb-bay door open and showing a new long-range, air-to-air missile.

Richard Fisher, who analyzes the Chinese military for the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the disclosure highlights a significant new military capability. The missile is larger than China’s PL-12 air-to-air missile that is comparable to the U.S. AIM-120 advanced air-launched missiles. The weapons hold for the J-20 also appears twice as large as that of the U.S. F-22 Raptor.

“The new AAM, when launched at supercruise speeds, likely confers a very long range, potentially exceeding [93 miles],” Mr. Fisher said.

“In revealing this new air-to-air missile, China is signaling that its new J-20 stealth fighter will challenge the United States in the ‘beyond visual range’ or BVR air battle the United States has for decades sought to dominate,” he said.

“This is double bad news for the Air Force, as it highlights the administration’s February 2012 decision to cancel its next generation air-to-air missile, creating greater risk for the F-22 air superiority fighter fleet made dangerously small by the administration’s 2009 decision to end production at 187 fighters,” he added. “This missile could also make the J-20 a greater threat to the Air Force’s next-generation bomber.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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 (www.freebeacon.com). 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. ...

Latest Stories

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks