After Two Years of Edward Snowden Revelations, What Have We Learned About NSA Spying?

Published May 21, 2015
Updated February 7, 2018


Snowden Revelations Rousseff Merkel

Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff, two Nymrod intelligence targets. Source: Brasil 24/7

According to reporting from Der Spiegel, the Nymrod database included an intelligence “target list” of 122 world leaders. The newspaper has also reported that the NSA tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone in 2008 and that “[n]o other country in Europe plays host to a secret NSA surveillance architecture comparable to the one in Germany,” with data collection sites such as the Dagger Complex and “GODLIKELESION” located throughout Germany. Other individual targets included Brazil’s President Dilma Roussef, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon, and leaders attending G20 summits.

Tempora and MUSCULAR

Run jointly by the NSA and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), these programs extract data from physical connections to fiber-optic cables (this process is known as “upstream” collection in NSA parlance) and the communication interface between Yahoo! and Google’s data centers. MUSCULAR is authorized to use 100,000 “selectors” (that is, search criteria), more than twice the number of selectors used by PRISM.

Snowden Revelations Muscular Post It

The Washington Post reports that Google engineers “exploded in profanity” when they saw this slide showing how the NSA intercepts data at the link between the public Internet and the Google cloud. Source: The Washington Post

Optic Nerve

Snowden Revelations Camera

Source: Meme Burn

In 2008, British intelligence and the NSA used this tool to secretly capture at least 1.8 million webcam images of Yahoo! users in a mere six-month window. The program was still in use in 2012, and so it is unclear how many additional images Optic Nerve may have swiped. According to reporting from The Guardian, British intelligence has considered expanding the program to also collect images from the video interfaces with the Microsoft’s Xbox videogame platform.

John has been writing for All That Is Interesting since 2014 and now lives in Madrid, Spain, where he writes and consults on international development projects in East Africa.
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