NSA Says XKeyscore Media Reports Are Misleading

/ 3 years ago


The recent leaks from the Guardian that revealed an NSA program called “XKeyscore” have sparked a critical response from the NSA. The leaks suggested that the NSA has indexed data about every user on the internet which includes associated phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, search history, log ins, session information and other user activity data. The service is reportedly updated in real time and NSA agents can access information on any person straight away simply by filling a basic form that does not need to be approved by a supervisor, scanned in by the system or supported by a (U.S or other) legal warrant – providing the person was a non-U.S citizen.

The NSA responded saying that:

“NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests”

Furthermore they stated that:

“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to the XKEYSCORE, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks…Not every analyst can perform every function and no analyst can operate freely. Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law”

To read more details on the XKeyscore leak see the original report here. To read the NSA’s response to the leak, see here.

It is clear from the NSA responses that the NSA have no intentions of denying such reports of an “XKeyscore” program but the extent to which the Guardian report is factually accurate is being called into question by them.

What are your thoughts on all this?

Image courtesy of The Guardian

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  • wtpayne

    I have every confidence that current and former analysts working for the security services act, in general, with integrity and discipline. I would be very surprised if we see reports of egregious, wide-spread abuse.

    Stories of individual analysts finding titillation in the pornography-browsing habits of various public figures might, perhaps, emerge, but I suspect that we are (currently) free from the widespread blackmail, political and economic manipulation, and rampant corruption that we fear.


    The scandal is really about the *potential* for abuse, not the actuality of current abuse, so to claim that the reports are misleading itself misses the whole point of the scandal.

    Anyway, whilst many people will try to impose extra bureaucracy on the NSA in the name of “oversight” – I cannot believe that the surveillance will stop. Indeed: – the creation of a rigidly bureaucratic, hide-bound system might actually make matters worse.

    In any case, the NSA and GCHQ are merely exemplar organizations in this story – the debate easily extends to encompass all those other state and non-state surveillance efforts that have been so radically enhanced by recent technological developments. We need to talk about Facebook and Google and China and Russia and France – just as much as we need to talk about the NSA and GCHQ.

    The disruptive force at the centre of the story is not the NSA. It is our increasingly intimate relationship with technology. Technology that, by it’s very nature, records and shares almost everything that it touches.

    Pandora’s box has been opened. The horse has bolted. Rather than attempting to close the stable door, should we not ask ourselves how we are going to survive in this new world?

    Right now, our state security agencies have a near-monopoly on these surveillance capabilities. This monopoly will, inevitably, be diluted as various other state and non-state actors become involved in the game.

    In this brave new world towards which we march, I suspect that our ability to project an untarnished image is going to suffer greatly. We will need to become a lot more comfortable with our own, flawed nature as human beings if we are to survive, let alone prosper.

    Skills required for leadership and success may shift radically once we can no longer hide behind a mask of perfection. Perfection itself, as a goal, may become discredited, and our various organizational and managerial cultures that thrive on the avoidance of blame might need to re-evaluate their position.