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back to article Snowden's XKeyscore revelations challenged

Edward Snowden's latest revelations about NSA snooping, the Xkeyscore program, have quickly been called into question. While The Guardian correctly identifies XKeyscore as being a search tool for NSA databases (providing what the outlet's Glenn Greenwald writes is an “ability to query the databases at any time”, which is pretty …

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Latest NEWS NSA says Snowden is lying, therefor he cant be prosecuted.

the USA is at it again, while the NSA is saying that everything Snowden says is untrue at the black hat conference, the USA still wants to prosecute him..... but for telling a made up story you cant get prosecuted as a traitor, for telling the truth you can.

So who do we believe? The NSA or the rest of the USA government?

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Re: Latest NEWS NSA says Snowden is lying, therefor he cant be prosecuted.

Why would you believe either of them? What incentive does the NSA, the US government or any other entity exerting high-level power in the good ol' US of A have to tell the truth about anything, ever?

Their collective credibility is the square root of negative zero. As is demonstrably the standard they hold us to I believe it is only just that they be held guilty unless proven innocent. After all, I'm somewhat sick of "one ruleset for them and another ruleset for the rest of us."

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There is middle ground too

I don't believe the NSA denied everything that Snowden has claimed. NSA are just claiming that there has been no abuse of data.

It is possible that some of what Snowden has said is true and that he could be prosecuded for that.

It is also possible that some of what Snowden says is a fabrication to bolster his position. For that he can't be prosecuted.

Likely the rest of us will never know the real truth.

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Re: There is middle ground too

It should be noted for this The Guardian based their statements about this software on the training documentation for the software, more so than Snowden's statements.

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Re: There is middle ground too

"Likely the rest of us will never know the real truth."

The truth does lie between each extreme of claim in such matters.

In this particular subject, I can comment no further.

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Re: There is middle ground too

Or most accurately, hyperbole based upon some sparse documentation, more so than Snowden's statements.

But then, hyperbole and hysteria sells. Rationality does not.

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Re: There is middle ground too

Rationality based on material from the NSA, or rationality as in something you just pulled out of your ass?

The Greenwald piece is based on actual documents. The criticism is based on help-wanted ads and self-proclaimed "experts" who keep getting proven wrong as others confirm what has been in each Greenwald story.

Maybe the Reg can put Lewis Page on the case so we can once again be told that there's nothing to be concerned about as long as we trust our masters.

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Re: There is middle ground too

"sparse documentation"

I was under the impression it was hefty documentation in this case (more-so than before). But of course if they only publish excerpts from the docs, I can only take their word for that, and can't argue against you.

*sigh* If only it was possible to organise a massive, coordinated/distributed reverse engineering attempt, to try and figure out what the hell is really getting intercepted and stored, and what's not...

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Joke

@Trevor:Re: Latest NEWS NSA says Snowden is lying, therefor he cant be prosecuted.

One filter ruleset for them and another filter ruleset for the rest of us.

Couldn't resist...I'll get my coat.

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Re: There is middle ground too

Have you read through the slides the Guardian was reporting on? It describes a database search. Some of the examples, eg "find me all encrypted word documents in Iran" sound interesting, but at no point does it say it's going out and inserting it's spindly electronic tentacles into everyones computer to find them.

In fact data collection isn't mentioned at all, anywhere in the presentation, and I looked carefully. And the collection is what everyone is worried about.

I'm starting to get the impression that Snowden is fond of hyperbole and doesn't know a lot about IT.

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Facepalm

Re: MD Rackham Re: There is middle ground too

".....The Greenwald piece is based on actual documents....." Apart from Greenwald's rather limited tech credentials, there is the fact this is The Guardian, a paper not exactly covered in previous IT glory. Apart from their previous history of mindlessly voicing the opinions of the technically challenged (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/01/18/stephen_frytard/), their reporters seem to be virtually clueless about anything Internet related. Their reporter on the original Dickileaks story had to ask A$$nut how to install PGP and couldn't work out how to unzip a 7z compressed file! A$$nut himself didn't come across as a seasoned PGP user in that episode either, despite his claims to being a 'leet hax0r (https://p10.secure.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/ssl/wikileak/2011/09/why-didnt-julian-assange-use-pgp-properly-when-handing-over-cablescsv-file-to-da.html?amp).

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Re: Androgynous Cupboard Re: There is middle ground too

".....I'm starting to get the impression that Snowden is fond of hyperbole and doesn't know a lot about IT." To be fair to Snowjob, this does seem to be Greenwald and The Guardian trying to spin out the story a bit longer. If anything, Snowjob is probably cringing at the article as its shrieking hysterics don't do Snowy any favours with people that can actual read slides for themselves.

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Re: There is middle ground too

but... in order to the searches they are giving examples off, the data must be in the database(s), so it is being collected somehow, I agree not by XKeyScore, having said that it is not inconceivable that there is a facility within XKeyscore to trigger the data collection features of another system. One can imagine a scenario where an analyst types in the email address of a target, the first thing that happens is a search of the databases by XKeyScore and then triggering of data collection if there isn't any data in the db's. Who knows. Anything is possible. Typing in random valid email address in to XKeyscore probably won't return anything as they can't collect and store every email sent around the world, so it makes sense to trigger a data collection activity from the network and have some control over what data is intercepted from the network.

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Gimp

I'd believe it.

You know why?

What else are they going to be using that 2billion dollar Utah Data centre for ?

Storing Bill Clinton's porn archives?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Utah DC

Does it have a sign in the front proclaiming it to be the offices of a certain "SETEC Astronomy"?

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Anonymous Coward

I agree with you, Combat Wombat. Also,

are we related?

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@mutatedwombat Re: I agree with you, Combat Wombat. Also,

Never mind the family reunion. The rest of us want to know if you have 'special powers'.

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Re: Utah DC

Oh very good, slightly obscure movie reference duly noted.

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"What else are they going to be using that 2billion dollar Utah Data centre for ?

Storing Bill Clinton's porn archives?"

I wish I was an American citizen so that my tax dollars could pay for this.

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Which Three-Letter Agency Paid For This Article

Once again, some right wing bozo (Ambinder, a political conservative) quibbles about a few points about the latest leak - indeed, not even the leak, but merely Greenwald's phrases discussing it - and now this piece tries to "hatchet" Greenwald over this nonsense?

Pathetic, Register...

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Re: Which Three-Letter Agency Paid For This Article

Oh, something out there that doesn't fit my worldview. Better insult the source ('right wing bozo') misrepresent the substance ('quibbles about a few points') and accuse the publication of taking kick-backs ('which three-letter agency paid...') and end with a sad little sneer. That'll learn 'em.

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Anonymous Coward

nothing to see here, move along

the slides have top secret written on them.

the article makes it quite clear that they are querying such data as they can manage to warehouse- a few days worth.

this reg article looks like churnalism.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: nothing to see here, move along

the slides have top secret written on them.

Though as they are coming from inside a security organisation the default setting for everything is probably "Top Secret" until proved otherwise.

Years ago when I left University I remember during induction training at my first job being solemnly told that everytime I saw a blank sheet of paper my first reaction should be to write "Company Confidential" on the bottom! Not that I ever did this ... but now in the days of Office templates its simple to ensure everything has "Top Secret" on it from the start.

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Devil

Re: nothing to see here, move along

It's the old saying, if it's on/in an official file it's an official secret.Take for instance the training manual for a Royal Navy chef on the first and last page you are informed that this doccument is classified secret,it's a recipe book FFS.

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Happy

Re: John McCallum Re: nothing to see here, move along

"....this doccument is classified secret,it's a recipe book FFS." The popular tale is that a ship's officers are sitting down for dinner when the youngest dares to ask the Captain: "Is it true the chef's recipe book is top secret, sir?"

The Captain considers the youth for amoment before disdainfully informing him: "Yes, because if Johnnie Foreigner knew what we eat he could devise a poison that would match the flavours of our food."

To which some wit quietly whispered: "Well, we could always sentence Johnnie Foreigner to eat an unpoisoned portion a day as punishment."

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Re: nothing to see here, move along

That is not the reason top secret is put on to slides, it most definitely not a default protective marking. The protective marking that is assigned is dependent on what they consider the impact to be if the information fell into the wrong hands. There is no such thing as a default protective marking level.

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Boffin

From the article:

>"Greenwald also conveys the impression that XKeyscore trawls all of America's communications in real time"

So, we are to believe that a database front-end is incapable of real-time queries of a database of internet communications that is updated in real-time? You might find that some of your readers have successfully handled problems far more difficult than this one.

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SOS, DD

Snowden, ASSange and Fat Boy Dotcom constantly make meritless claims. Only a gullible fool would believe these attention seeking morons.

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Re: SOS, DD

If what they say is rubbish why are they being hunted down and trying to be silenced?

No government is looking to put David Icke behind bars, so conspiracy theories and warnings aren't tackled unless there is some truth to them.

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Who is this Douchbag with his semantics?

Ok so system A doesn't collect but system B does and in a highly immoral, Stasi like manner.

I don't really care if they have one 'tool' or ten tools and what their called I only care that it is wrong and should be stopped immediately.

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Anonymous Coward

And burn da googlez too!

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USA has a problem

The USA enjoyed pursuing and pushing around anyone for hacking or suspected hacking or for looking like they could. Snowden kicked them in the nuts and ran by disclosing a secret program (some claim illegal) used for anti terrorism but potentially abused/abusable. Snowdon exposed a painful truth regardless of your thoughts on PRISM as an anti terrorism weapon or a weapon against its people. This gives snowden a privileged position that he can say almost anything and it will be believable to all but the staunch US system defenders.

I have no idea if it is true/lie or somewhere between. But I hope snowden is telling the truth as is the responsibility of his position. And as long as he is telling the truth I hope he is protected and his rights protected.

His US rights have been removed and publicly flogged. There is no hope of any justice in the US for snowden.

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Re: USA has a problem

"disclosing a secret program (some claim illegal) used for anti terrorism but potentially abused/abusable. "

And THIS is where the actual lie is!

This is not an "anti-terrorist" program!

This is purely a massive, gigantic, probably the biggest by orders of magnitude SURVEILLANCE program this planet has ever seen.

The US CLAIMS they built it to protect themselves against terrorism, but it is NOT an anti-terrorism tool... it is purely a surveillance tool, and no matter what they claim it's for... it CAN be used for anything.

Explosives can be used to make fireworks AND bombs. Nuclear fission can be used to make electricity AND bombs. Rockets can be used to send a man into space AND to make missiles...

And the NSA surveillance program can watch out for terrorists... AND everyone else on the planet...

Historically, EVERY single time a tool was invented that had the potential to be abused by those in power to retain their power... it HAS been abused. Why would this be any different?

I'd be willing to bet everything I have that this tool has ALREADY been abused multipls ways and multiple times...

No doubt about it.

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FAIL

Re: Pat 4 Re: USA has a problem

And pencils can be used to stab people, so let's assume EVERYONE will stab ANYONE they meet with ANY writing implement, and make owning one a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, right? Your childish bleating is too tragic for words.

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Re: Pat 4 USA has a problem

You can leglislate against owning pencils all you like, point is TLA's act outside the law with the complicity of the government of the day.

Your childish analogy is too tragic for words.

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Re: Pat 4 USA has a problem

HB or H2, which do you prefer?

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FAIL

Re: crayon up his nose Re: Pat 4 USA has a problem

"......point is TLA's act outside the law with the complicity of the government of the day....." But, as has been shown, the agencies in question are operating well inside the law, under the rolling warrant and the FISC in the case of the NSA. Oh, sorry, did your reality filter just discard that news because it didn't sit well with what you wanted to bleat?

".....Your childish analogy is too tragic for words." What is childish is your determination to avoid recognizing the fact that just because something is possible and you want it to be so does not make it reality. Some people stab others with pencils but not all people do. Some coppers are crooks but the majority are not and will catch and prosecute those they find to be crooked. Likewise, it is safe to assume the majority of NSA/CIA/MI6 analysts with access to the data and search tools are going to be conscientious and stay within their remit, and one that chooses to try using or selling the info for personal gain is going to be found and prosecuted. You are so busy bleating that the sky is falling you simply forgot to show any proof at all because you WANT to think the sky is falling due to your socio-political faith and your paranoid delusions of victimhood.

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Oh well that's alright then

If XKEYSCORE doesn't collect data and is only a tool for querying the database we obviously have nothing to fear.

Except of course the tool that isn't XKEYSCORE which is populating that DB in real time, of course.

It would seem we're rapidly approaching the point beyond which the NSA actually give a shit about people being aware of certain things for one of the administration's pet journos to trot out a sad 'debunking' of this sort.

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Anonymous Coward

"Rolling Buffer" of ~3 days of ALL unfiltered data

"Rolling Buffer" of ~3 days of ALL unfiltered data seen by XKEYSCORE:

- Stores full-take data at the collection site -- indexed by meta--data

- Provides a series of viewers for common data types

What bit don't you understand ?

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Re: "Rolling Buffer" of ~3 days of ALL unfiltered data

It's the "seen" bit you dolt.

Yes the NSA is trawling for data, and some of the revalations about that are fascinating, worth reporting and cause for alarm. But this is not one of those. This is a revelation that they can search what they trawl, which shouldn't really come as much of a surprise.

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Re: " they can search what they trawl"

Yes, it's obvoius that search would be provided, but proof that it exists reminds me of the Frankenstein moment after the lightning strike: "It lives!" .

The USA is famous for its institutional checks and balances - are they still up to the job? Heaven alone knows what the UK oversight and control procedures are and whether they can cope with the monster that has now been constructed.

It used to be that there was another monster - nuclear deterrence; it was scary and potentially lethal to the whole humane race but it worked (and greatly to the West's benefit). The general principles and mechanisms for managing the beast were well publicised, analysed (and sometimes played out) in public. Nobody seriously tried to downplay (or deny) the dangers.

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Anonymous Coward

Just a B.S.'er

I wouldn't believe anything Snowden has to say.

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Boffin

Get real.

Yeah, it's horrible, we should stop any software that has been developed by any of the alphabet agencies and uninstall any, right? So you'll all be happilly uninstalling all those Oracle instances out there? Oh, you didn't know the whole relational database thing and Oracle's DB in particular came from the CIA?

Before there were computers and Oracle software to do the searching for the CIA, the World's largest index card system was (allegedly) part of the British Secret Service's means of keeping tabs on hundreds of thousands of people, both in the UK and abroad. If legend is to be believed, every time an agent or member of a British consulate met anyone a card was started on that person which linked to a file with more details. But it could take a week to get back a simple answer such as "list all the people living in Belgium called Schmidt". All these data collection tools gulp data, the problem for the spooks is getting intelligent information from the data. The rise of computerised search and analysis tools has been more than matched by the explosion of data. The result is that any search is going to be a time-intensive and very narrowly focused effort, or it merely swamps the analyst with worthless data.

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Re: Get real.

The security services are quite competent (some of them very competent) and they have big budgets (some of them very big). My money is on them getting useable results out of their systems.

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