The annual Black Hat convention which features some of the smartest hackers on the planet heard from their keynote speaker today, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Army General Keith Alexander.
General Alexander was there to speak on the NSA’s use of metadata mining of phone calls and e-mails of all Americans. He wanted to assure them that the NSA does not listen in on every phone call or read every e-mail.
Between being heckled by some in the audience, Alexander explained that when they do have a suspect they obtain a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant. FISA is a secret court used by Intelligence agencies such as the NSA and the FBI.
Alexander explained that he wanted to, “give attendees an insider’s look into the U.S. Cyber Command and the inter-working of offensive cyber strategy” and he did, showing slides with prepared information about some of the surveillance programs used by the NSA.
The NSA director showed how they “connect the dots” once they get a warrant.
When a person is being electronically watched, every phone call he makes is recorded along with everyone that he has called. Then those people he called are then electronically watched along with everyone that they call, and everyone that they called are then electronically watched and so on and so forth.
One warrant for a suspect who makes 40 calls in a day, could ultimately end up with 2.5 million people being watched by the NSA and this is all done with the original warrant from FISA. The same holds true with e-mails. Everyone that a suspect e-mails will cause the same domino effect.
According to Gen. Alexander they do not listen to every phone call of every American, but they do data mine every call, and if someone they are watching even has the vaguest link to someone who may have talked to someone who then may have talked to someone that you may know even in a slight way, you will be watched by the NSA.
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