September 14, 2020

About the legality and constitutionality of the Section 215 metadata program

It was one of the NSA's most controversial activities: the bulk collection of domestic telephone records under the Section 215 program. On September 2, a court of appeal ruled that this violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and suggested that it may have been unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.

Here, I will provide a summary of this court case, United States v. Moalin, summarize the initial legal authority for the Section 215 program and explain on what grounds the court of appeal has now found that it was in violation of the law.

That's followed by a more extensive discussion about whether telephone metadata are protected under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which shows that the court didn't recognize the difference between extensive data mining and the much more restricted method of contact-chaining as conducted by the NSA.

Slide about the NSA's Section 215 domestic telephone records program, from the keynote
by former NSA director Keith Alexander during the security conference Black Hat USA 2013

United States v. Moalin

The case in which the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided is about four Somali immigrants, Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, Mohamed Mohamud and Issa Doreh, who were found guilty by a San Diego jury in February 2013 on charges of sending money to al-Shabaab, a jihadist terrorist group based in East Africa.

The principal evidence against the four men consisted of a series of recorded calls between Moalin, his co-defendants, and individuals in Somalia, obtained through a wiretap of Moalin's phone. After Snowden revealed the Section 215 program in June 2013, several government officials tried to defend this program by claiming that it had provided information that led to reopening the investigation into Moalin.

Among them was then-FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce who in a congressional hearing said that "the NSA provided us a telephone number only in San Diego that had indirect contact with an extremist outside the United States." This led to an identification of co-conspirators and enabled the FBI to disrupt their financial support to al-Shabaab.

Three of the four men convicted in 2013
(image: CBS News)

Subsequently, Moalin and his co-defendants argued that the metadata program violated both the Fourth Amendment and the law under which it was authorized. Therefore, the "fruits" of the government's acquisition of Moalin's phone records should therefore have been suppressed.

And indeed, the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously found that the bulk collection of telephone records violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and was possibly unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment (see below).

No benefit for Moalin

But after carefully reviewing the classified FISA applications and all related classified information, the court was also convinced that the telephone metadata, even if unconstitutional, did not taint the evidence presented by the government.

In other words: the court saw no evidence that Section 215 had provided a lead to reopen the investigation into Moalin and to wiretap him: "To the extent the public statements of government officials created a contrary impression, that impression is inconsistent with the contents of the classified record".

This means that Moalin, who received an 18-year sentence, and one of his co-defendants remain in prison; the two other co-defendants already completed their sentences. Any of them or the government can still seek review from a larger, 11-judge en banc court, but they can also bring the case before the Supreme Court.

Notice of intelligence information

While the Ninth Circuit's ruling on Section 215 has no consequences anymore, another part of the opinion still has: the government has to provide notice to criminal defendants when evidence was obtained from surveillance conducted under FISA and the FISA Amendment Act (FAA). This also applies to surveillance conducted under other foreign intelligence authorities, including Executive Order 12333.

In the Moalin case, the defendants were not notified about the use of intelligence information, but learned about it after the trial from the public statements that government officials made in the wake of the Snowden revelations. The court, however, considered that "information as to whether surveillance other than the metadata collection occurred would not have enabled defendants to assert a successful Fourth Amendment claim."

The Richard H. Chambers building in Pasadena, once a hotel, now one of
the courthouses of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
(photo: Levi Clancy/Wikimedia Commons)

Bulk collection under Section 215

The NSA started its collection of domestic telephone records in October 2001 as part of the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), better known under its classification codename STELLARWIND.

This program was based upon a very controversial legal opinion by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, arguing that it was justified by the president's wartime powers according to Article Two of the US Constitution.*

After objections raised by Justice Department officials Jack Goldsmith and James Comey, a new legal basis for this collection of telephone metadata was found in Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was approved in secret by the FISA Court on May 24, 2006.

Unlike the content of phone calls, the associated metadata were not considered constitutionally protected. This because in 1979, the US Supreme Court had ruled that telephone records that have been voluntarily provided to a telecom provider are not protected under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution (Smith v. Maryland, also known as the third-party doctrine).

Section from the classified STELLARWIND report, page 16

Violation of the law

Now let's take a closer look at why the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the Section 215 bulk collection program unlawful.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act amended 50 U.S. Code §1861 and authorized the government to apply to the FISA Court for an "order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

According to the PCLOB report the government didn't link its FISA Court applications to a single counter-terrorism investigation. Instead, the practice was to "list multiple terrorist organizations [...] and declare that the telephone records being sought are relevant to each of those investigations", which is "little different [...] from simply declaring that they are relevant to counter-terrorism in general."

With this practice the statutory requirement of relevance for "an investigation" became virtually meaningless and therefore the Ninth Circuit ruled that the telephony metadata collection program exceeded the scope of Congress's authorization and violated that particular section of the law.

The intelligence committees

While the NSA's collection of domestic telephone records was not according to how Section 215 was intended, the congressional intelligence committees were aware of it. They had been briefed multiple times about what was actually going on - a practice that (in secret) had also been approved by the FISA Court.*

According to an American legal doctrine, "Congress is presumed to be aware of judicial interpretations of the law". So when Congress reauthorized Section 215 in 2009 and 2011, the government argued that it had also "ratified" the FISA Court's secret interpretation that allowed the NSA's bulk collection.*

However, many members of the intelligence committees choose not to attend such classified briefings, preferring to stay comfortably ignorant not only about how their legislation turned out in practice, but also about how it was interpreted by the FISA Court.*

On May 7, 2015 the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had excused this by saying that details about the Section 215 program were actually so hard to access, even for members of the intelligence committees, that no meaningful debate had been possible.

Therefore, this court did not recognize the theory of the implicit ratification of the FISA Court's interpretation and ruled that the bulk collection exceeded the scope of what Congress had authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act - the same decision as that of the Ninth Circuit.

Hand-written copy of the proposed Bill of Rights from 1789, cropped to show
just the text that would later be ratified as the Fourth Amendment
(click to enlarge)

Protected under the Fourth Amendment?

Regarding the issue whether the telephone metadata collected under Section 215 were protected under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, the Court of Appeals "stopped just short of saying that the snooping was definitely unconstitutional".*

Instead of a judgement, the court described a range of differences between the use of a simple pen register back in the days of Smith v. Maryland and the present-day capabilities of collecting and analyzing metadata in bulk:
- Nowadays, metadata reveal much more information, like the IMSI and IMEI number and the trunk identifier of a cell phone, telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of a call.
- The amount of metadata created and collected has increased exponentially, along with the government's ability to analyze it.
- The duration of the collection in this case also vastly exceeds that in Smith v. Maryland: back then the pen register was used for a few days at most, while the NSA collected telephony metadata for years.
- Telephony metadata "as applied to individual telephone subscribers and when collected on an ongoing basis [...] permit something akin to [...] 24-hour surveillance."
- The extremely large number of people from whom the NSA collected telephony metadata enables the data to be aggregated and analyzed in bulk.

Regarding the latter, the court's opinion says:
"A couple of examples illustrate this point: A woman calls her sister at 2:00 a.m. and talks for an hour. The record of that call reveals some of the woman’s personal information, but more is revealed by access to the sister’s call records, which show that the sister called the woman’s husband immediately afterward. Or, a police officer calls his college roommate for the first time in years. Afterward, the roommate calls a suicide hotline.
These are simple examples; in fact, metadata can be combined and analyzed to reveal far more sophisticated information than one or two individuals’ phone records convey. As Amici explain, “it is relatively simple to superimpose our metadata trails onto the trails of everyone within our social group and those of everyone within our contacts’ social groups and quickly paint a picture that can be startlingly detailed"

This is a probably the most common argument against the bulk collection of metadata, but it ignores that there are actually different ways how intelligence agencies use large sets of metadata:

- Contact-chaining:
The full set of data is used in a "shallow" way by only looking which phone numbers (or other kinds of identifiers) are in contact with each other. This results in contact-chains and social network graphs:

- Pattern-of-life analysis:
Only parts of the data set are used to create a deeper insight into the daily life patterns of people of interest (after being identified through contact-chaining for example). Note that this kind of analysis is also conducted for individual people who are subject of targeted interception:

The examples cited by the Court of Appeals refer to the pattern-of-life analysis, while the data collected under Section 215 were only used for contact-chaining (and analyzing the results thereof).* The latter is also mentioned in the court's opinion, but without any further discussion:
"The government was also allowed to search phone numbers within three “hops” of that selector, i.e., the phone numbers directly in contact with a selector, the numbers that had been in contact with those numbers, and the numbers that had been in contact with those numbers."

The NSA's contact chaining method

The contact chaining started with a so-called "seed" - a phone number for which there was a Reasonable, Articulable Suspicion (RAS) that it was associated with a foreign terrorism organization.

This seed number was then entered into the MAINWAY contact chaining system to retrieve all the numbers that had been in contact with the seed - the first "hop". Then, analysts could also retrieve the numbers that had been in contact with the first hop numbers, which makes a second hop from the seed number:

Slide from a declassified NSA training about the Section 215 program
(click to enlarge)

Only for the numbers that showed up in such a two (and sometimes three hop) contact chain, analysts could use a separate tool to retrieve the associated call records which were stored in a different database.

These records included the originating and receiving phone number, the date, time and duration of the call (since 2008 also the IMEI and IMSI numbers of cell phones). The collection of location data was prohibited by the FISA Court, and subscriber information was also not acquired either.

In 2006, NSA analysts saw only one of every four million phone records as a result of the contact-chaining. In 2012, the NSA used 288 phone numbers as a seed for a contact-chaining query, resulting in 6000 phone numbers that analysts actually looked at.

Only such phone numbers of interest were "enriched" with additional information from other sources, like subscriber details, which would then reveal the associated names and things like family relations for example.

When this led to a suspicious American phone number, the NSA passed it on to the FBI for further investigation. There are no indications that the NSA conducted pattern-of-life analysis using the domestic telephone metadata collected under Section 215.

ACLU v. Clapper

The way Section 215 was operated was clearly less intrusive than the examples cited above, but the Ninth Circuit didn't mention this difference. It was discussed though by district judge William H. Pauley III, who summarized the actual practice in the case ACLU v. Clapper already in December 2013:
"First, without additional legal justification - subject to rigorous minimization procedures - the NSA cannot even query the telephony metadata database. Second, when it makes a query, it only learns the telephony metadata of the telephone numbers within three "hops" of the "seed." Third, without resort to additional techniques, the Government does not know who any of the telephone numbers belong to. In other words, all the Government sees is that telephone number A called telephone number B. It does not know who subscribes to telephone numbers A or B."

Accordingly, he ruled that the Section 215 program was lawful (this was overruled by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit because of violation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act (see above). For that reason the Second Circuit didn't want to "reach these weighty constitutional issues").

Contact chaining compared to pen register

In a report from last February, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) says that the first hop of the contact chaining process is not much different from what a pen register did: it lists the numbers with which a particular number had been in contact with.

Regarding the second hop, the PCLOB suggests that it's rather the nature than the number of call records that constitutes a Fourth Amendment protection.

Not discussed by district judge Pauley nor by the PCLOB is the subsequent analysis of the full call records associated with the numbers from the contact chains.

Telephone interception equipment that was used in the Netherlands from 1971 to 2003.
The brown device prints the metadata of the calls on a paper slip.
(photo: Wikimedia Commons - click to enlarge)

Apparently, the pen register in the Smith v. Maryland case only provided the phone numbers, but others may have recorded more call details. As of 1979 the Dutch police for example used a "telephone call analyzer" that recorded time and duration of a call, and the phone numbers of the calling and called parties - the same elements as the NSA collected under Section 215.

Therefore, one could argue that these call records are also not protected under the Fourth Amendment, especially when they are from landline phones.

This would be a bit more difficult with the final phase of the NSA's contact chaining process, when the numbers from the contact chains are enriched with information from other sources, including names and other subscriber details.

About the subscriber information one could still say that people provide that to their phone company voluntarily (in the past it was even published in phone books), but enrichment with other kinds of information will likely cross the line of what people see as private.

Based upon this more detailed analysis of the Section 215 program, the contact chaining and the call record analysis seem close enough to a pen register to fall outside the protections of the Fourth Amendment.

For the enrichment that could be different as it comes closer to a pattern-of-life analysis, even when it still doesn't reveal "a vibrant and constantly updating picture of the person’s life" as it was cited in the Ninth Circuit's opinion.

Bulk collection?

A final aspect that has to be taken into account is that protection under the Fourth Amendment also requires recognition by society. The Court of Appeals mentions "the public outcry following the revelation of the metadata collection program" to show that nowadays "several years' worth of telephony metadata collected on an ongoing, daily basis" are regarded as something private.

But the majority of the general public probably never understood that the Section 215 metadata were only used for contact chaining and not for analyzing the database as a whole, by pattern analysis or data mining for example.*

Therefore it's yet another, but still unaddressed question whether there's a reasonable expectation of privacy when metadata are collected in bulk but only an extremely small number of them are picked out for closer examination.

Replacement and termination

For the NSA's Section 215 program these legal questions have no practical impact anymore. In 2015, it was replaced by the USA FREEDOM Act, which ended the bulk collection. Henceforth the NSA had to request the metadata from telephone companies based upon specific and pre-approved selection terms.

Early 2019, the NSA suspended the program and subsequently deleted all the data collected under this authority, "after balancing the program’s relative intelligence value, associated costs, and compliance and data-integrity concerns caused by the unique complexities of using these provider-generated business records for intelligence purposes."

Links & sources
- Lawfare: NSA Bulk Phone Data Collection Unlawful, Appeals Court Rules
- Emptywheel: Basaaly Moalin Wins His Appeal — But Gets Nothing
- Politico: Court rules NSA phone snooping illegal — after 7-year delay
- Brennan Center for Justice: A Breakdown of Selected Government Surveillance Programs
- Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted under Section 215
- Emptywheel: The Era of Big Pen Register: The Flaw in Jeffrey Miller’s Moalin Decision

August 30, 2020

Head of Danish military intelligence suspended after misleading the oversight board

The Danish military intelligence service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste or FE), which is also responsible for signals intelligence, has been accused of unlawful activities and deliberately misleading the intelligence oversight board.

After the oversight board (Tilsynet med Efterretningstjenesterne or TET) received information from a whistleblower, the head of the FE, Lars Findsen, and three other senior officials of the intelligence service were suspended.

Here, I will provide a translation of the press release of the oversight board, as well as details from its earlier reports, showing that there were problems at the FE for years. An overview of the international cooperation between the FE and foreign partner agencies provides a context for what likely went wrong at the Danish service.

Lars Findsen, head of the FE from 2015 to 2020 and the
FE's satellite intercept station in North Jutland

Press release of the Oversight Board

The affair came to light when on August 24, the Danish Ministry of Defense issued a short statement saying that the head of the FE and two other officials were suspended from duty until further notice. Svend Larsen, the chief of Central and West Zealand Police, was appointed as acting chief of the FE. Later, a third official was also suspended.

The same day, the Danish Intelligence Oversight Board published a press release with the unclassified results of its investigation into the issues that led to Findsen's suspension. Because the press release is only available in Danish, I made a preliminary translation using Google Translate with manual corrections to make it more readible:


The Intelligence Oversight Board completed a special investigation into the Defense Intelligence Service (FE) on the basis of material submitted by one or more whistleblowers.

In November 2019, one or more whistleblowers provided the Intelligence Oversight Board with a significant amount of material relating to the FE, which the Board has not hitherto been aware of or able to acquire. The material is of such a nature that the Board decided to focus its oversight of the FE in order to carry out an in-depth investigation of the present situation. With this announcement, the Board publishes the unclassified results of the investigation.

On the basis of the Board's investigation of the submitted material, the Board sent an analysis in four volumes to the Minister of Defense containing the Board's conclusions and recommendations on 21 August 2020.

Throughout the process of the special investigation of the FE, the Board has held the Minister of Defense informed. The Minister of Defense has regularly expressed support for the Board's in-depth examination of the material.

The Board's assessments and recommendations deal with matters that are fully or partially within its legal supervision authority according to the FE Act and the rules and conditions based on it, which the Minister, in the opinion of the Board, should have knowledge of, cf. § 16, stk. 2. of the FE Act.

Based on a source-critical examination of the submitted material, the Board assesses, among other things, the following:
- That since the establishment of the Board in 2014 and until the summer of 2020, the FE has, among other things, on several occasions during the Board's inspections and meetings with the head of the FE, withheld key and crucial information and provided the Board with incorrect information regarding the service's collection and disclosure of information.

The Board is of the opinion that the statutory duty to provide information is absolutely necessary for functional oversight and that it is based on trust by the legislator that the FE complies with this obligation in all respects. The result of these repeated breaches of the statutory duty to provide information is that the legality check that the Board is required to carry out under the FE Act, and which contributes to the legitimacy of the FE's work, does not work out as intended.

- That at central parts of the FE's collection capabilities there are risks that can lead to unlawful collection against Danish citizens.

- That the submitted material indicates that the FE's management has failed to follow up on, or further investigate indications of espionage within the Ministry of Defense.

- That there is a culture of insufficient legal awareness within the FE's management and parts of the service, which results in unlawful activities or inappropriate situations within the service to be shelved, including not informing the Oversight Board about matters relevant to its supervision.

- That the submitted material indicates that the FE, prior to the establishment of the Board in 2014, initiated operational activities in violation of the Danish law, including obtaining and passing on a significant amount of information about Danish citizens.

- That the FE has unlawfully processed information about an employee of the Oversight Board.

Against this background, the Board recommends that a political position be taken on the following:
- Whether there should be an investigation into whether the FE has carried out and is carrying out its task as a national security authority within ​​the Ministry of Defense in accordance with § 1, stk. 2 of the FE Act.

- The need to uncover whether the FE has adequately informed policy makers about all relevant issues concerning key parts of the service's collection capabilities.

Given the options of the FE Control Act, the Board does not have the possibilities to further uncover specific matters that emerge from the submitted material. Therefore, the Board generally recommends the following:
- That an early evaluation of the FE Act will be carried out to determine whether the Board has the necessary legal authorities and resources to carry out an effective legal oversight of the FE, including whether the Board must have the authority to conduct interrogations of the FE's employees as witnesses.

- That, based on of the circumstances of the Board's receipt of the submitted material, an external whistleblower scheme for the FE is established, which can best be placed under the auspices of the Board.

Such a scheme should improve the ability of current and former FE employees to comment on controversial issues without fear of retaliation, including employment or criminal consequences. Furthermore, such a scheme would allow classified information to be passed on in a secure environment. The scheme must also ensure that an external whistleblower body has the necessary resources and instruments to protect the persons who submit information according to this scheme.

The Board had thorough considerations regarding the publication of the conclusions and recommendations of the investigation. It is crucial for the oversight that the public has as much insight as possible. However, in the view of the extremely sensitive circumstances surrounding the submission of the material to the Board and its classified content, the Board may not provide further information to the public.

Facts about the Intelligence Oversight Board

The Intelligence Oversight Board is a special independent monitoring body that supervises that the PET processes information about natural and legal persons in accordance with the law, and that the FE processes information about natural and legal persons domiciled in Denmark in accordance with the law. The Board was established by the Act on the Police Intelligence Service (PET), which, like the Act on the Defense Intelligence Service (FE), entered into force on 1 January 2014.

Following the entry into force on 1 July 2014 of the Center for Cyber ​​Security (CFCS) Act, the Board has also monitored that CFCS processes information about natural persons in accordance with the legislation.

The Board consists of five members appointed by the Minister of Justice after consultation with the Minister of Defense. The chairman, who has to be a High Court judge, is appointed on the recommendation of the Presidents of the Danish Eastern and Western High Courts, while the other members are appointed after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee for the Intelligence Services.

The members are:

- Michael Kistrup, High Court Judge, High Court of Eastern Denmark (Chairman)
- Erik Jacobsen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Roskilde University
- Pernille Christensen, Legal Chief, National Association of Local Authorities
- Professor Henrik Udsen, University of Copenhagen
- Professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen, University of Copenhagen

Read more about the audit at

The Kastellet fortress in Copenhagen, the workplace of most of the FE's employees
(photo: Danish Air Force Photo Service)

Problems in earlier reports

The FE's unauthorized and illegal activities described in the press release of the Oversight Board may actually not have come as a complete surprise.

Already in several earlier reports, the Oversight Board noticed that the FE conducted quite a large number of unlawful "raw data searches", which is the term used for untargeted interception. This method enables the FE to "obtain very large amounts of information (several hundred million communications per year)" - according the Annual Report 2018.

In the English version of its Annual Report 2017, in which the FE is mentioned as the Danish Defense Intelligence Service or DDIS, the oversight board says:
"the checks showed that in four instances DDIS engaged in unlawful targeted procurement of information about persons resident in Denmark for a total of 20 days in 2014, eight months in 2014-2015, four days in 2016 and 17 months in 2016-2017. The checks further showed that in 20 percent of the samples drawn DDIS made unlawful searches in raw data.
In the Oversight Board’s opinion, the unlawful instances of procurement, including searches in raw data, were in the nature of negligent actions in all cases. Similarly, the Oversight Board notes that since the publication of the Oversight Board’s annual report for 2016 DDIS has taken a number of measures to reduce the number of errors. For one thing, DDIS has intensified its internal controls in the area and strengthened and targeted its staff training."

Regarding the issue of sharing data and information with the Danish domestic security service (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste, or PET) as well as with foreign partner agencies, the board noticed:
"that in a few instances DDIS was not in possession of documentation of the reason underlying the legal approval of a disclosure of information about persons resident in Denmark. The Oversight Board encouraged DDIS to ensure that documentation is obtained in all cases.
Furthermore, the check showed that DDIS did not carry out logging of a system sampled for disclosure of information. The Oversight Board encouraged DDIS to implement system logging, which was soon implemented by DDIS."

Lars Findsen in his office, with two Cisco 7900-series IP phones, apparently one for
secure and one for non-secure calls, as indicated by the colored labels
(photo: Ritzau/Jens Dresling)

Work station searches

Also interesting is that the Danish Intelligence Oversight Board checks individual computers of FE employees:
"Within two DDIS departments, the Oversight Board’s secretariat checked a number of randomly chosen work stations, including their drives, Outlook folders, external storage devices and documents in hard copy.
In connection with the check performed of the information held on each of the work stations, the secretariat asked questions to the individual staff members in question about their knowledge of the rules on processing, including erasure, of information about persons resident in Denmark.
When asked, a majority of the staff informed the secretariat that they had erased information from their work stations before the check."

As a result of this work station check in 2017, there appeared to be one case in which a "staff member processed information about persons resident in Denmark in violation of DDIS’s internal guidelines as the staff member in question retained information which he or she believed was no longer relevant to process there."

Backdoor searches

In its Annual Report 2018 the Oversight Board addressed an interesting aspect of the cooperation between the FE and the domestic security service PET. When the PET requests the FE to use its (untargeted) collection systems to obtain future communications of someone resident in Denmark, then the PET has to obtain a court order beforehand.

However, it was "an established practice" that no court order was required when the PET asked the FE to conduct a search in raw data that had already been obtained (note the similarity with the controversial "backdoor searches" which the NSA conducts on data that it has already lawfully collected).

After a critical opinion of the Oversight Board from June 2018, the PET agreed that in the future it will obtain a court order before requesting the FE to perform a raw data search concerning persons resident in Denmark. This because the PET "does not wish for a situation where it could be called into question whether it has the authority required for its activities".

The FE's satellite interception station near Hjørring in North Jutland

International cooperation

Although being just a small organization, the Danish FE was always part of various international signals intelligence alliances. Already in 1954, it became a third party partner of the NSA and, as such, a member of the multilateral SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR) group that was established in 1982.

In 1976, the FE took the initiative to set up a purely European signals intelligence group codenamed Maximator, which includes Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and France. The FE was also part of a parallel military intelligence alliance, which was created in the early 1980s and is known as the Club of Five.

The data and information that Denmark contributes to these multilateral exchange groups comes from the various collection systems operated by the FE. Most visible are its two satellite interception stations: one close to Sandagergård on Amager and one near Hjørring in North Jutland.

Additionally, the Danish military probably has mobile interception units to be used during operations abroad. In Afghanistan for example, Danish forces were part of the Afghanistan SIGINT Coalition (AFSC) and used DRT equipment to collect cell phone metadata that was fed into the NSA's Real Time-Regional Gateway (RT-RG) system.

The FE's satellite interception station on Amager, close to Sandagergård

Based on documents from the Snowden revelations, the Danish newspaper Information reported in June 2014, that Denmark is most likely cooperating with the Americans for access to fiber-optic cables under the NSA's umbrella program RAMPART-A. The NSA also provided the FE with collection and processing equipment.

Data "collected from cable taps in Denmark are filtered in order to eliminate Danish data before handing them over to NSA. The filters, however, do not remove all Danish data, since this is not technically feasible" - according to Information. This is similar to what happened to the data the German BND shared with the NSA under operation Eikonal, which was also part of RAMPART-A.

Denmark was also mentioned in Edward Snowden's written testimony for the European Parliament from March 2014, in which he came up with the following accusation:
The result is a European bazaar, where an EU member state like Denmark may give the NSA access to a tapping center on the (unenforceable) condition that NSA doesn't search it for Danes, and Germany may give the NSA access to another on the condition that it doesn't search for Germans.
Yet the two tapping sites may be two points on the same cable, so the NSA simply captures the communications of the German citizens as they transit Denmark, and the Danish citizens as they transit Germany, all the while considering it entirely in accordance with their agreements.
Ultimately, each EU national government's spy services are independently hawking domestic accesses to the NSA, GCHQ, FRA, and the like without having any awareness of how their individual contribution is enabling the greater patchwork of mass surveillance against ordinary citizens as a whole.

It should be noted that this theory is not supported by original documents from the Snowden collection. Also, a thorough German investigation into the prohibited data the NSA was interested in during its cooperation with the BND for satellite interception revealed that the NSA mainly tried to target various European government agencies and German companies.

This was in violation of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Germans, but in general, spying on foreign governments is considered fair game - and it turned out that the BND was doing exactly the same. There are no indications that these kind of cooperations were used for the surveillance of ordinary citizens.


Meanwhile, additional reporting by the Danish broadcaster DR says that the FE allegedly shared large amounts of raw data from a fiber-optic cable access with the NSA, "which could have included Danish citizens' private personal information and communications". DR couldn't clarify whether this cooperation with the NSA was legal or illegal.

This could be a confirmation of Information's reports from 2014 about a joint cable access operation, but it could also be that the FE shared (meta)data from its own cable access with the NSA. It's assumed that the FE can legally intercept cable traffic in bulk, but as a foreign intelligence service, it has to make sure that no data of Danish residents are collected.

We know that both the NSA and the BND had great difficulties with filtering out data of their citizens and residents, so the least that can be expected is that the FE has the same problem, apparently didn't care much about it and deliberately misled the Oversight Board about the extent of this issue.

The Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, has announced an investigation into the unlawful activities of the FE.

Links & sources
- Information: Når man samarbejder med NSA om masseovervågning, er det langtfra risikofrit (Sept. 12, 2020)
- The Local: Danish intelligence scandal related data sharing with US agency, according to media (August 28, 2020)
- The Register: The Viking Snowden: Denmark spy chief 'relieved of duty' after whistleblower reveals illegal snooping on citizens (August 25, 2020)
- BBC: Danish military intelligence head Lars Findsen suspended (August 24, 2020)
- Information: German disclosure raises questions about Danish NSA-partnership (October 20, 2014)
- Information: NSA ‘third party’ partners tap the Internet backbone in global surveillance program (June 19, 2014)

- English homepage of the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (DDIS)

July 22, 2020

A unique note from the BND about European SIGINT alliances

(Updated: July 31, 2020)

Last April, an academic article by the Dutch professor for computer security Bart Jacobs revealed the existence of Maximator, a hitherto unknown SIGINT-sharing alliance of five European countries.

On July 1, the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) also published an article about the Maximator alliance, which includes a handwritten note by an employee of the German foreign intelligence service BND.

This note appeared to be rather spectacular, as it provides some details about two different European SIGINT alliances. Such international cooperation is among the most sensitive and secretive aspects of the intelligence business.

The handwritten note about SIGINT cooperation between BND and DGSE
(click to enlarge)

Transcript and translation

According to the Frankfurter Rundschau, the note was written in 1986 by a manager from the BND who was responsible for the Maximator alliance.

Unfortunately, his handwriting is very difficult to read, but with some puzzling and guessing it was possible to clarify most of the text (please leave a comment if you think you can correct something or fill in some of the remaining gaps).

Below is the original text of the note in German on the left side (with the abbreviations written in full) and a translation in English on the right side (updated with some good suggestions):


Tech[nische] Zusammenarbeit BND/Wicke
Technical cooperation BND/France

First column:

- .. 50 (Richtfunk VHF/UHF)
- RohMat[erial]
- 5er Club
(Wicke, Begon[ie]
Kresse-H, Pfingst-
- Bilaterale
Bespr[echungen] 2x jährlich
zusammen mit
- .. 50 (Microwave VHF/UHF)
- Raw data
- Club of Five
(France, Denmark
Netherlands-Army, Bel-
- Bilateral
talks twice a year
together with

Second column:

- Col
- RohMat[erial]
- Maximator
(Wicke (seit 1 jahr), Mohn
Begon[ie], Kresse-Mar
- Aust[ausch] Klar[text]
mat[erial] wird
einziger PD
- Bilaterale
- ...
- Raw data
- Maximator
(France (since 1 year), Sweden
Denmark, Netherlands-Navy
- Exchange of plain text
material will be
only PD
- Bilateral

Third column:

(Wicke schwach)
Radar signals
(France weak)

Fourth column:


Transcription of the handwritten note about cooperation between BND and DGSE
(click to enlarge)

Discussion of the content

The title of the note is hardly legible, but the Frankfurter Rundschau says it reads "Technische Zusammenarbeit" or technical cooperation between the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) and the French foreign intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE).

Then there are four columns for the subsets of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) involved in this cooperation: first Communications Intelligence (COMINT) related to military issues as well as to political issues, then Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), and finally Crypto or cryptography which is needed to decipher communications that are encrypted.


Regarding the cryptologic cooperation between BND and DGSE, the note only has the mysterious abbreviation "Col.", which reminds of terms like "collection" and "collaboration" but these doesn't seem to fit, given that the rest of the text is in German, which has very few words that start with "col".

According to the article by professor Jacobs, the members of the Maximator alliance (see below) exchanged algorithms used in various (deliberately weakened) encryption devices used by target countries. It was then up to the individual partners to find out how to exploit these weaknesses.

Electronic Intelligence

The note also doesn't provide much information about the cooperation between France and Germany in the field of Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), which is the collection and analysis of signals that do not contain human communications.

ELINT aims at the electronic parts of an enemies' defense network, like radars, surface-to-air missile systems and aircraft systems, so ships, aircraft and missiles can be detected by their radar and other electromagnetic radiation.

According to the note, BND and DGSE exchanged data about radar transmissions on a bilateral basis, but it also seems to say that the French capabilities were rather weak.

There are also the letters CREM or CIREM, which is probably the abbreviation of Centre d’Information sur les Rayonnements ÉlectroMagnétiques, or Center for Information on Electromagnetic Radiations, which is the old name for the French center for military SIGINT CFEEE.

Political Communications Intelligence / Maximator

The second column of the note is about Communications Intelligence about political issues. Here we see the mysterious abbreviation "Col." again, which is also in the Crypto column.

On this topic, BND and DGSE exchanged raw communication intercepts which were also shared multilaterally within the Maximator alliance. According to Jacobs, the focus of this group was on intercepting and decrypting diplomatic communications, both from HF radio transmissions and SHF satellite links.

The Maximator alliance has its own cover names for each of its partners, but in the BND note the members are listed by the regular cover names that the BND used for its foreign partners, which are names of flowers and plants:
Wicke - France (with the additional remark: "since 1 year")
Mohn - Sweden
Begonie - Denmark
Kresse-Mar - Netherlands, naval intelligence

From professor Jacobs' article we now that France requested to join the Maximator alliance in 1983. This was supported especially by Germany and as a result France was invited in 1984 and joined in 1985. So when the BND note says "since 1 year", it means the (undated) document was written somewhere in 1986.

For the Netherlands it was the Technisch Informatieverwerkings Centrum (TIVC) that participated in the Maximator group. The TIVC was the cryptanalysis centre of the Dutch Navy, which is indicated by the abbreviation "Mar" for Marine behind the cover name for the Netherlands.

The participants in the Maximator alliance and their internal cover names
(click to enlarge)

After listing the members of the Maximator alliance, the BND note probably says that the exchange of plain text intercepts will be clarified. An interesting term is Wortbanken, which may be similar to the "dictionaries" containing the selectors used to filter content of interest out of the intercepted data streams, a method well known from the Five Eyes agencies. There also seem to be some "PD" which may stand for "Points of Discussion".

For the coordination of the exchange of political intelligence there were bilateral talks, but it's not clear whether that's just between BND and DGSE or that it also applies to the Maximator alliance. The latter would contradict Jacobs' article, which says that signals interception issues were discussed in multilateral meetings attended by all members.

Military Communications Intelligence / Club of Five

Finally, the first column of the note is about Communications Intelligence related to military issues. It starts with some letters or numbers (maybe 50?), followed by the remark that the cooperation is apparently about intercepting microwave (Richtfunk) and possibly other VHF and UHF radio transmissions.

Since the 1950s, microwave radio relay links were widely used for long-range point-to-point communications, both for civilian and military purposes. During the Cold War, the United States had the unique capability to intercept Soviet microwave traffic using satellites such as the Rhyolite/Aquacade, which could pick up the beam of a microwave link that passes the receiving antenna and radiates towards the horizon and then into space:

Interception of microwave signals by spy satellites
(image: Decora/Wikimedia Commons)

Germany and France, nor other European countries had such satellites to intercept microwave signals, so collaboration and sharing their own intercepts could have strengtened their own position compared to the capabilities of the Americans.

Just like political intelligence was shared within the Maximator group, this military intelligence was also exchanged multilaterally, but in a different group which was called "5er Club" or "Club of Five". The note also lists the members of this group, again using the regular BND cover names:
Wicke - France
Begonie - Denmark
Kresse-H - Netherlands, army intelligence
Pfingstrose - Belgium

Note that the membership of the Club of Five is slightly different from the Maximator alliance: it has Belgium instead of Sweden as a member. For the Netherlands, it was the 898th signal battalion of the Dutch army that participated in the Club of Five, probably supported by the TIVC for the cryptanalysis.

Through several listening stations along its borders as well as mobile SIGINT units, the BND itself was able to intercept microwave and radio transmissions from inside the German Democratic Republic (DDR). The signals intelligence units of the French military have similar capabilities, probably also aboard dedicated spy ships.

This Club of Five was also mentioned in professor Jacobs' piece, who referred to a book by Richard Aldrich which says that since the early 1980's there was a "mini-UKUSA-alliance called "The Ring of Five", consisting of the sigint agencies of Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Denmark". In a note, Jacobs also suggests that this group may also "have been called Fünfgruppe".

According to the BND note, the exchange of military intelligence was also discussed during bilateral meetings, in this case twice a year and together with "UW", but it is unknown what that stands for.

The scan of the note

The Frankfurter Rundschau did not only publish the written part of the note about the cooperation between BND and DGSE, but the whole sheet of notebook paper as it was scanned, including another sheet of paper that was used as a background:

The full scan of the note about cooperation between BND and DGSE
(click to enlarge)

A close look at the bottom of the scan reveals some text that bleeds through from the back side of the larger sheet of paper. Rotating, mirroring and enhancing the image shows that it's part of a bill from the German cell phone provider Smartmobil for mobile data usage for the month of May 2019:

The back side of the sheet of paper behind the BND note
(click to enlarge)

This shows that the BND note wasn't scanned before May 2019 and maybe it could even provide a lead to the person who leaked the note to the press. Therefore, it's quite sloppy that Frankfurter Rundschau didn't cut off this part to make sure that there's no trace to the source.

Thanks to Le cueilleur and Zone d'Intérêt for providing some useful information for this blog post.

Links & sources
- Zone Militaire: Cinq pays européens, dont la France, s’échangent des renseignements au sein de la discrète alliance « Maximator » (July 2020)
- Le Monde: Une petite note manuscrite du renseignement extérieur allemand brise un très vieux secret (July 2020)
- Frankfurter Rundschau: Exklusiv-Recherche: BND spionierte jahrzehntelang am Parlament vorbei (July 2020)
- Bart Jacobs: Maximator: European signals intelligence cooperation, from a Dutch perspective (April 2020)
- German website: Fernmelde- und Elektronische Aufklärung - Funk- und Funktechnische Aufklärung
- Dutch websites: 898 Verbindingsbataljon - WKC/TIVC/SVIC
- Matthew M. Aid & Cees Wiebes, "Secrets of Signals Intelligence during the Cold War and Beyond", London, 2001.

June 23, 2020

NSA documents and cover names from the book Dark Mirror

On May 20, yet another book about the Snowden-revelations was published: Dark Mirror, Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State. It's written by Barton Gellman, who was in direct contact with Snowden and reported on the NSA's spying activities for The Washington Post.

Here, you'll find the original documents from Dark Mirror, to complement the existing collections of Snowden documents, as well as a listing of all the NSA cover names, because most of them are not included in the index of the book. A review of Dark Mirror will follow in due course.

(Similarily, the NSA documents and codenames from Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide from 2014 can be found on the website IC Off The Record)


The book contains five (parts of) documents that haven't been published before, as well as six slides from NSA presentations which were released as part of earlier press reports. There are also three photos of Edward Snowden in Dark Mirror which are not reproduced here.

(Collections of all the documents from the Snowden revelations can be found at the website IC Off the Record and in the Snowden Surveillance Archive)

Presentation about the PRISM program:

Front slide of the NSA's PRISM presentation from April 2013.
Published earlier by The Washington Post on June 6, 2013.
(Dark Mirror, p. 109 - click to enlarge)

Part of slide 40 from the NSA's PRISM presentation from April 2013.
Published earlier by The Washington Post on June 29, 2013,
but without the two-row table with the Section 702 FAA certifications.
(Dark Mirror, p. 113 - click to enlarge)

> See for all the PRISM slides that have been released: What is known about NSA's PRISM program

Presentation from the Large Access Exploitation Group:

Detail from a slide from an NSA presentation titled "Is it the End of the
SIGINT World as We Have Come to Know It?" prepared by a member of
the Large-Access Exploitation Group and dated May 10, 2012.
(Dark Mirror, p. 169 - click to enlarge)

Detail from a slide from a briefing titled "Is it the End of the SIGINT
World as We Have Come to Know It?" prepared by a member of the
Large-Access Exploitation Group and dated May 10, 2012.
(Dark Mirror, p. 174 - click to enlarge)

Probably from the same presentation are two slides that were published by The Washington Post on December 4, 2013 and one partial slide published with Greenwald's book No Place to Hide in May 2014.

> More about the MAINWAY system: Section 215 bulk telephone records and the MAINWAY database

Presentations about SSO Collection Optimization:

Meme from the NSA presentation "SSO Collection Optimization"
from January 7, 2013, referring to collection systems that
scooped up more data than they could process
(Dark Mirror, p. 192 - click to enlarge)

Slide from the NSA presentation "SSO Collection Optimization" from 2013
about intercepting Google's cloud, better known as the MUSCULAR program.
Published earlier by The Washington Post on October 30, 2013.
(Dark Mirror, p. 284 - click to enlarge)

Also from presentations about SSO Collection Optimization are:
- seven slides published by The Washington Post on October 14, 2013,
- six slides published by The Washington Post on November 4, 2013.

Slides from other NSA presentations:

Detail from a slide from the NSA presentation from
"FAIRVIEW Data Flow Diagrams" from April 2012.
The full presentation was published by
The Intercept in November 2016.
(Dark Mirror, p. 171 - click to enlarge)

> More about the FAIRVIEW program: FAIRVIEW: Collecting foreign intelligence inside the US

Slide from the NSA presentation "NSA/CSS Mission: PROVIDE AND
Published earlier by The Washington Post on December 23, 2013.
(Dark Mirror, p. 184 - click to enlarge)

Explanation of "traffic shaping" to redirect a target's communications
traffic in such a way that it passes an NSA access point.
Published earlier by The Intercept.
(Dark Mirror, p. 201 - click to enlarge)

Miscellaneous documents:

Example of an e-mail exchange between senior White House, Justice
Department and DNI officials, released upon a FOIA request about
the FIRSTFRUITS media leaks program
(Dark Mirror, p. 226 - click to enlarge)

Confirmation of the flight reservations for Edward Snowden
and Sarah Harrison, June 24, 2013.
(Dark Mirror, p. 307 - click to enlarge)

Cover names

Dark Mirror contains 28 cover names that haven't been published before. However, not all of them are explained in the book, some are just mentioned to reflect the NSA's internal culture and the way these code names are composed.

There are also 63 cover names which were already known from press reports and/or documents from the Snowden trove. This means that for many of them there's additional information available - click the asterisk for sources.

(All these cover names are also included in the extensive listings of NSA Nicknames and Codewords and NSA's TAO Division Codewords on this weblog)

Newly revealed cover names:

BADASS - (unexplained compartment) (p. 206)
BADGIRL - ? (p. 204)
BATCAVE - Digital hideout for NSA hackers who emerge to steal another country's software code (p. 209)
BLACKAXE - Exceptionally Controlled Information (ECI) compartment (p. 70)
BLADERUNNER - ? (p. 209)
CAPTAINCRUNCH - FBI owned and monitored network servers to attract foreign hackers (p. 86)
COOKIEDOUGH - ? (p. 210)
CROWNROYAL - ? (p. 209)
DEPUTYDAWG - ? (p. 209)
DEVILFISH - ECI compartment (p. 70)
DEVILHOUND - ? (p. 207)
EPICFAIL - ? (p. 207)
EXPLETIVEDELETED - Cover name for al-Qaeda's favorite encryption software (p. 212)
EXUBERANTCORPSE - Cover name for al-Qaeda's favorite encryption software (p. 212)
FLYLEAF - ECI compartment (p. 70)
Graph-in-Memory - Database holding maps of contacts in support of contact-chaining (p. 174, 177, 180)
HYSSOP - ECI compartment (p. 70)
KESSELRUN - ECI compartment (p. 70)
KOBAYASHIMARU - NSA contract with General Dynamics to help break into another country's surveillance equipment (p. 210)
LIGHTNINGTHIEF - ECI compartment (p. 70)
MISS MONEYPENNY - Support unit providing cover identities for undercover CNE operations abroad (p. 202)
PANT_SPARTY - Injection of an NSA software tool into a backdoor in the target's defenses (p. 204)
POISONIVY - Remote-access trojan used by Chinese government spies (p. 209)
QUIDDITCH - Exploit used by the Special Collection Service (SCS) (p. 209)
STRAWHORSE - Modification to Apple's software installer Xcode to insert a remote-controlled backdoor into each app it compiled (p. 188, 216-220)
VIXEN - ? (p. 204)
ZOMBIEARMY - ? (p. 207)

Cover names published earlier:

ALTEREDCARBON - An IRATEMONK implant for Seagate drives * (p. 209)
AMBULANT (AMB) - ECI compartment related to the BULLRUN program (p. 70)
BLACKBELT - Access point under the FAIRVIEW program * (p. 207)
BLARNEY - Collection of foreign phone and internet communications within the US under FISA authority (since 1978) * (p. 199)
BLINDDATE - Searching for vulnerable machines on a local Wi-Fi network * * * (p. 203, 206)
BORGERKING - Something related to Linux exploits (p. 210)
BOUNDLESSINFORMANT - NSA's collection visualization tool based on internet and telephone metadata (p. 10, 206)
BYZANTINE HADES (BH) - Chinese computer network exploitation (CNE) against the US * probably renamed to the LEGION-series * (p. 68, 85, 206)
CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE - Software tool that listens in on conversation by switching on the microphone of a target's mobile handset (p. 208)
CO-TRAVELER - Set of tools for finding unknown associates of intelligence targets by tracking movements based upon cell phone locations * (p. 318)
CRUMPET - Covert network with printer, server and desktop nodes, or ECI compartment (p. 70)
EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE (EGGI) - TOR Browser Bundle (TBB) exploit (p. 80)
EPICSHELTER - Data backup system to recover information from particular NSA sites, designed by Edward Snowden * (p. 59-61, 63, 75)
ERRONEOUSINGENUITY (ERIN) - Tool for exploiting the TOR network (p. 207)
FAIRVIEW - Domestic cable tapping program in cooperation with AT&T (since 1985) * (p. 311)
FALLOUT - Internet metadata ingest processor/database (p. 169/image)
FASCIA - Telephony metadata ingest processor/database * (p. 169)
FASCIA II - Telephony metadata ingest processor and primary source of telephone metadata for target development. It formerly contained internet metadata which are now in MARINA.* (p. 172)
FELONYCROWBAR - System used to configure the UNITEDRAKE framework (p. 207)
FIRSTFRUITS - Counterintelligence database to track unauthorized disclosures to the press, set up in 2001 * * (p. 225, 271-274, 277)
GROK - Key logger that records every character a target types (p. 209)
HAPPYHOUR - Getting access to vulnerable machines on a local Wi-Fi network (p. 203)
Heartbeat - Apparently a data handler system, designed by Edward Snowden * and/or successor of EPICSHELTER, or an index of surveillance systems * (p. 36, 74-78)
IRONAVENGER - NSA hacking operation against an ally and an adversary (2010) * (p. 209)
KRISPYKREME - Implant module related to the UNITEDRAKE framework, as revealed by the Shadow Brokers * (p. 210)
LADYLOVE - The NSA satellite intercept station at Misawa in Japan (since 1982) (p. 204)
LIFESAVER - Technique which images the hard drive of computers * (p. 210)
MAILORDER - FTP-based file transport system used to move data between various collection, processing and selection management systems. Originally developed in 1990, ultimately to be replaced by JDTS * (p. 171)
MAINWAY (MW) - NSA's main contact chaining system for foreign and domestic telephone and internet metadata from multiple sources; performs data quality, preparation and sorting functions, summarizes contacts and stores the resulting one-hop contact chains * (p. 168-176, 178-180)
MAKERSMARK - Major cyber threat category countered by the TUTELAGE system * identified in 2007 * (p. 209)
MARINA - NSA database for internet metadata; maybe succeeded by CLOUDRUNNER in 2013 * (p. 169/image)
MJOLNIR - Tool to break the anonymity of the Tor network * (p. 209)
MUSCULAR - Joint NSA-GCHQ operation to tap the cables linking Google and Yahoo data clouds to the internet * (p. 299-300, 311, 315)
NIGHTSTAND - Delivering malware to a vulnerable machines on a local Wi-Fi network (p. 203, 206)
NIGHTTRAIN - Part of a program to spy on a close US ally during operations alongside the ally against a common foe * (p. 209)
OAKSTAR - Umbrella program for 9 accesses at 7 corporate partners (since 2004)* * (p. 311)
ODDJOB – HTTP command and control implant for installation on compromised Windows hosts, published by the Shadow Brokers (p. 201)
PINWALE - Primary storage, search, and retrieval system for SIGINT text intercepts. Target data is filtered through a Packet Raptor at the collection site and is subsequently processed by a WEALTHYCLUSTER 2, followed by an XKEYSCORE for selection at NSA headquarters.* (p. 176)
PITIEDFOOL - Suite of computer network attack (CNA) tools to attack the Windows operating system, overwrites data to the point it is irrecoverable (p. 206)
POLITERAIN - Offensive computer network attack (CNA) team from the Access Technologies & Operations (ATO) unit of the NSA's hacking division TAO * (p. 220)
PRISM - Collection of internet data from specific foreign targets at major US internet companies (since 2007) (p. 84, 99, 106-113, 117-121, 123-133, 137, 139-148, 226, 285, 300)
QUANTUM - Secret servers placed by NSA at key places on the internet backbone; part of the TURMOIL program * (p. 199)
RAGTIME (RGT) - ECI compartment for call and e-mail content collected under FISA authority * Encompasses both NSA and FBI FISA data since 2002 * (p. 122)
SCISSORS - Data scanning, formatting and distribution system * or processing system that slices up data for sorting (p. 206)
SECONDDATE - Exploitation of vulnerable machines on a local Wi-Fi network (p. 203)
SEEDSPHERE - Chinese "intrusion set" against US computer networks, identified in 2007 * (p. 68)
SORTINGHAT - RT10 application * or Traffic control system for information exchanged with GCHQ (p. 209)
STARBURST - Temporary cover term for what would become the STELLARWIND compartment (October 2001) (p. 70, 170)
STELLARWIND (STLW) - Cover term for the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), which encompassed bulk collection of domestic metadata and targeted interception at backbone facilities inside the US in order to track down foreign terrorists and their previously unknown conspirators (2001-2007) (p. 26, 70, 71, 169-170, 175)
TRANSGRESSION - TAO/CES unit providing cryptanalytic support for various missions * (p. 206)
TURMOIL (TML) - Passive SIGINT sensors: filtering and selection (at the packet level) of internet traffic on high-speed satellite, microwave and cable links, part of the TURBULENCE program * * * (p. 299)
TURTLEPOWER - System to process VoIP communications data * and/or automated decryption of enciphered data (p. 209)
UNPACMAN - Processing system on TAONet, part of DEEPFRIEDPIG * (p. 210)
Upstream - Targeted collection of telephone and internet communications of foreign targets at backbone cables and switches inside the US (p. 84)
VOYEUR - Compartment shared with GCHQ for spying on another country's spies as they spy on someone else (4th party collection) * (p. 206)
VULCANDEATHGRIP - Repository for data collected from vPCS shaping under the STEELFLAUTA program * or tool that seizes encryption keys during the handshake of two devices as they establish a secure link (p. 210)
WALKERBLACK - Related to the MAKERSMARK intrusion set * (p. 209)
WESTERNSTAR - Contact-chaining program * (p. 174/image)
WHARPDRIVE - Joint venture between the German BND and another country with access for NSA (2013)* * (p. 210)
WHIPGENIE (WPG) - ECI compartment for details about the STELLARWIND program * (p. 70, 122)
XKEYSCORE (XKS) - Computer system that combines high-speed filtering of data traffic from different sources with techniques for discovering targets who use the internet anonymously * (p. 86-87, 330-331)


Cover names from Edward Snowden's book Permanent Record:

EPICSHELTER - (p. 168-169, 189, 220)
FOXACID - (p. 168)
Heartbeat - (p. 221-222, 256-257)
OPTICNERVE - (p. 256)
PRISM - (p. 223-224, 291)
QUANTUM - (p. 225)
STELLARWIND - (p. 175, 177, 245, 250)
TRAILBLAZER - (p. 250-251)
TURBINE - (p. 225)
TURBULENCE - (p. 225)
TURMOIL - (p. 225)
Upstream - (p. 224)
XKEYSCORE - (p. 276-279, 281, 325)
ZBSMACKTALK/1 - (Fictitious CIA cryptonym) (p. 133-134)