back to article NSA: It's TRUE, we grab 200 MILLION of your text messages A DAY globally

Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden have detailed the operation of an NSA system called Dishfire that collects, stores and analyzes 200 million text messages a day from around the world. dishfire Dishfire ... Here's what your text messages tell the snoops (Source: Guardian/Snowden) According to two slides …

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  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge
    Pint

    If you have nothing to hide you probably don't have enough beer. :)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Or don't know enough Clash lyrics (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/03/text_punk/)

      I suppose back in 2004 they could eavesdrop on ALL messages

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. BillG
      Pint

      The Last Secure Option

      And if you do have something to hide - use a landline!

      1. Anonymaus Cowark

        Re: The Last Secure Option

        That is not sufficiently secure either since the telco have boxes that allow to snoop on normal landlines aswell. If you have to send a note write it encrypted on paper and sent it with a pigeon or raven.

        1. wolfetone

          Re: The Last Secure Option

          "If you have to send a note write it encrypted on paper and sent it with a pigeon or raven."

          What if they shoot the pigeon and take the text to Bletchley Park? Again, not secure.

          Semaphore, that's probably the most secure way to deliver a message. Or Morris dancing.

          1. DropBear Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: The Last Secure Option

            "What if they shoot the pigeon and take the text to Bletchley Park? Again, not secure."

            It is if it was encrypted with a one-time pad. Me, I even encrypt my passwords (twice!) via ROT-13...

            1. Werner Heisenberg
              Joke

              Re: The Last Secure Option

              "Me, I even encrypt my passwords (twice!) via ROT-13..."

              Meh, only twice?

              I always ROT-13 exactly twenty-four times - show me a supercomputer that can decrypt THAT!

          2. TheMidnighToker

            Re: The Last Secure Option

            > Semaphore, that's probably the most secure way to deliver a message

            Read Terry Pratchett's Going Postal -clacks and by extension Semaphore are extremely prone to MitM attacks ;)

            1. wolfetone

              Re: The Last Secure Option

              "Read Terry Pratchett's Going Postal -clacks and by extension Semaphore are extremely prone to MitM attacks ;)"

              Then, we have no other choice: Don't send anything.

              1. cortland

                Re: The Last Secure Option

                Two can keep a secret -- if one of them is dead. Right?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Last Secure Option - land lines?

          Pretty sure the technology to tap land lines has been around and in use for some time.

          I know of a system at a large Australian telco that's capable of recording 1 million concurrent calls - I'd guess that the same multinational has similar systems in other countries.

        3. Bloakey1

          Re: The Last Secure Option

          "That is not sufficiently secure either since the telco have boxes that allow to snoop on normal landlines aswell. If you have to send a note write it encrypted on paper and sent it with a pigeon or raven."

          rfc2549 ?

          Nahh, they are just carriers. you need something with a defensive and attack capability, I would suggest owls or eagle.

          Not bald headed eagles as they have been p0wned by the NSA.

        4. jgarbo
          Devil

          Re: The Last Secure Option

          ...only if you're certain the pigeon hasn't been turned...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Last Secure Option

        yes because plugging into a wiring frame or tapping an ISDN line is so hard.....

    3. Oh Homer
      Headmaster

      If they've done nothing wrong...

      Then what does the NSA have to hide?

    4. dogged

      My new hobby - buying a £10 PAYG phone and sending 1000 texts to random numbers all containing the single message - "we are go, bomb the Pentagon".

  2. nuked

    That's a lot of border crossings in a day...

    The other 5.5 billion texts are probably generated by NSA spyware. Always wondered why contracts offered 2-3k free texts a month...

    1. Annihilator

      "Always wondered why contracts offered 2-3k free texts a month..."

      Because it costs mobile networks about a penny per thousand texts. Each text is about 140 bytes - it's the golden egg of mobile comms which thankfully other apps are replacing.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      > That's a lot of border crossings in a day...

      Not really... that looks like just "roaming happened".. but the roaming info indicates which subset to geolocate & check for an actual border crossing. Less strain on the NSA data center.

    3. Alpha Tony

      @a lot of border crossings a day

      Not necessarily. Driving around near a country border can cause your phone to roam back and forth between cell towers on either side, which could be interpreted as repeatedly crossing the border and for people that live near the border this would be going on all the time.

      Borders in Europe are completely porous anyway, so people that live near one may well legitimately cross it lots of times a day anyway..

  3. petur
    Meh

    Neat trick!

    1) Country A and B both have laws that prevent easy snooping on own citizens

    2) Country A and B snoop on each others citizens

    3) Country A and B share said snooping data

    ...

    Bingo! Snooping on your own citizens without breaking the law!

    1. nuked

      Re: Neat trick!

      If only we had some kind of 'special' relationship...

      1. jgarbo
        Unhappy

        Re: Neat trick!

        >>If only we had some kind of 'special' relationship...

        We do. Bend over and I'll show you...

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Neat trick!

      1, Country A and B have laws against torturing suspects

      2, So you ship them to country C and have them apply the electrodes

      2, You stand outside the door asking the questions.

  4. oldtaku
    Unhappy

    Sadly, is there anyone who is even remotely surprised by this? I just assumed this was already covered. Good to have it confirmed, of course.

    1. Amorous Cowherder
      Thumb Up

      Me too! I was convinced the The Reg told us this was going on a few years back, all thanks to NATO and especially the UK's "special" relationship with Uncle Sam.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just think - Apple (iMessage), Blackberry (BBM) and WhatsApp are making it even easier for NSA to harvest the data, all kept in one handy location.

    Still - it's free eh?... :-\

    1. petur
      Black Helicopters

      "Just think - Apple (iMessage), Blackberry (BBM) and WhatsApp are making it even easier for NSA to harvest the data, all kept in one handy location.

      Still - it's free eh?... :-\"

      At least you have choice, you can also use Viber and your data will go to Israel ;)

    2. Jess

      (BBM)

      Canadian owned. What are the security implications?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: (BBM)

        No worries with BBM.

        They're only the holder of the patent for RSA's backdoor algorithm [1] and I'm sure have been reported as handing over bulk messages as the request of various nation stations.

  6. batfastad

    Tragic

    It's tragic that so much money and man-power goes into this stuff. Haven't governments these days got anything better to do?

    1. Psyx

      Re: Tragic

      "It's tragic that so much money and man-power goes into this stuff."

      In the grand scheme of things, it's spare change down the back of the sofa.

      And the intel community will tell you that it's woefully underfunded these days... partly due to this kind of thing. COMINT is such a big deal these days that other forms of intel get sidelined.

      To my mind it's more worrying how much is spent on the military compared to how much is spent on intelligence, international diplomacy and aid. If we spent all the cash we spend on war-toys on finding out what other nations are doing, rooting out trouble before it hit the fan, making other nations happy and reducing international poverty then there'd be less people pissed off at us, and less requirement for all those tanks.

    2. jgarbo
      Big Brother

      Re: Tragic

      Better than controlling the world? Are you new?

      1. batfastad

        Re: Tragic

        Ha ha, fair enough. Good point, well made!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you've done nothing wrong, you obviously need to live a little more dangerously.

    1. Javapapa

      "If we say we have done nothing wrong, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

      I John 1:8 (ESV, slightly modified)

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Usual NSA BS

    "Targetted surveillance" Blah Blah.

  9. tom dial Silver badge

    "You should assume every government in the world is spying on SMS messages that pass through their borders," Jon Callas, CTO of secure messaging biz Silent Circle told The Register.

    Could this possibly be a wee hint that the moral panic over NSA and GCHQ is beginning to peak? The uproar, or not, over President Obama's retuning to be announced tomorrow may give further indication.

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    If you've done nothing wrong, you're not alive nor have you ever been.

  11. Eponymous Cowherd

    Targets

    "'Specifically deployed against – and only against – valid foreign intelligence targets'"

    "Wird nicht in der heute, brach mir das Bein Skifahren. Angela"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Targets

      OH, the HUMANITY!

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  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even if it were effective...

    ...it would be a violation of the Constitution of the United States. President Obama, of course, hates our constitution and is wont to stamp on it every chance he gets. I daresay that King George III was a better president than this vituperative buffoon we are suffering with at present.

    Alas, the people in oppostion to him, John Boener and Mitch McConnel, Eric Cantor and John McCain, are even worse. All of them have rolled over and played dead in the face of Obama's misbehavior. John McCain and John Boener are especially annoying to me personally. It seems that they go welll out of their way to spit on those of us who value the Constitution of the United States as it was written and are serious about our beliefs. Eric Cantor wanted an entire decade to blance the budget, even though he knows damned good and well that would be five terms for a representative, two terms for a senator and more than two presidential terms. A ten year plan is clearly unworakable on the face of it and it could not be clearer to anyone with any sense that he is lying through his teeth and is a great actor rather than being the great politician he claims to be. Everyone we have elected is scum or is fast becoming scum. They, all of our elected officials, pay no attention to the restraints that the our Constitution places on them, and they laugh the matter off as though it were of no consequence. However, it is of consequence. And, Hillary, yes it does matter and it matters a great deal.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      @Billy Catriger

      <long rant snipped >

      This is what happens when you roll out rural broadband.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Billy Catriger

        Can you say, "implied ad hominem? I thought so.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: @Billy Catriger

          I was under the impression that the US Constitution was now just a historical document superceded by the Patriot Act etc. ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Billy Catriger

            President Obama agrees with you.

        2. Psyx

          Re: @Billy Catriger

          He probably can't and certainly doesn't know what it means.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Billy Catriger

            President Obama most certainly does understand it. He taught constitutional law in Chicago.

    2. Eponymous Cowherd

      Re: Even if it were effective...

      Hark, I hear banjos.

      1. Getriebe

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        "Hark, I hear banjos."

        6 finger banjos?

        But he did use the subjunctive in the title, so some hope.

        1. jgarbo
          Headmaster

          Re: Even if it were effective...

          Sad, really, American English seems to have only one subjunctive. Limits expression. Could explain a lot...

    3. cheese_then
      FAIL

      Re: Even if it were effective...

      It surprises me you still think that a President is anything more than a figure head or front of house spokesman. It sometimes appears to me that since they shoot and get rid of the president's for thinking that they could change the world, most presidents now just do as they are told. Usually they are quite good at hiding the fact, but since Bush Jnr the cat is out the bag, down the street and eating snackies at the fish mongers.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even if it were effective...

      > President Obama, of course, hates our constitution and is wont to stamp on it every chance he gets.

      The article clearly states "text messages have been slurped by Uncle Sam since at least 2008".

      Remind me again, who was president in 2008?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        George Bush was President. He had no real respect for the Constitution either.

    5. Hollerith 1

      Re: Even if it were effective...

      Wow, I've never been this close to one of this sort of person before. Like being close to a celebrity. The ones who cling to the Constitution are often the ones who run bulldozers through its clear intent (e.g. 'right to bear arms'), but to watch them declare that the current Power-That-Be is taking us all to hell in a hand-basket has a certain queasy fascination.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        "e.g. 'right to bear arms'"

        I'd really like more hair on my arms. And claws.

        1. Bloakey1

          Re: Even if it were effective...

          "d really like more hair on my arms. And claws."

          I think that it is a diabolical liberty. the right to arm bears is unconstitutional and a diabolical affront to the american race.

          1. jgarbo
            Facepalm

            Re: Even if it were effective...

            There's no American "race" in the animal sense. I'd suggest rabble, mob, gang - something cozy.

        2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Even if it were effective...

          ..."e.g. 'right to bear arms'"...

          I really enjoyed the Jasper Fforde series of 'Nursery Crime Division' police stories.

          At one point a politician thinks it's unfair that bears should be hunted without any means to defend themselves, and puts through a 'Right to Arm Bears' act...

          1. Mike Flex

            Re: Even if it were effective...

            "puts through a 'Right to Arm Bears' act..."

            Hunting would be a lot more sporting if the bears could shoot back.

            Grizzly? Well, pretty ticked off, and its got an M16.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        Well, what do you want me to say? The truth hurts doesn't it? The Bush-baby was bad, but Barak Obama has been ten times worse.

    6. Psyx

      Re: Even if it were effective...

      "President Obama, of course, hates our constitution and is wont to stamp on it every chance he gets."

      If you genuinely believe that, you Sir are a moron.

      I hate Cameron, but I'd have to be stupid to think that he is deliberately grinding the Magna Carta into to the dust because he hates it. That kind of thinking sweeps aside rational thought and really makes you not worth debating with, because no matter what evidence you see or are shown, your opinions are cast in stone and supported by the hand-jobs of your peer-group.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        @Psyx

        "If you genuinely believe that, you Sir are a moron."

        Yes I believe you are talking to the clan intellectual.

        1. Psyx

          Re: @Psyx

          "Yes I believe you are talking to the clan intellectual."

          Clan with a big 'C', or a little one?

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: @Psyx

            "Clan with a big 'C', or a little one?"

            If you mean the Boyz n Hoodz,* popular in some part of the Southern states that would be with a K.

            I meant nothing more sinister than a large extended family, possibly living in the same (large) house.

            *With apologies to John Singleton.

      2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        "I hate Cameron, but I'd have to be stupid to think that he is deliberately grinding the Magna Carta into to the dust because he hates it"

        - No, that was Blair

        1. Psyx

          Re: Even if it were effective...

          "No, that was Blair"

          I don't like him, either. I despise him more, on reflection. But I'd be stupid to think that he hates the concept of freedom and rights, too. He just thought that taking a few of them away caused less fuss and made it easier to catch 'bad' people, which is good for votes. In action he stamped on Rights, but he did it because of political reasons and not some personal dislike for freedom.

      3. cortland

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        Morons? Technically, no. Practically, there're enough in Congress for our present needs.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Even if it were effective...

        President Obama did nothing but promise the American public "change" when he ran the first time. He never said what he would change or how he would change it, but he did promise us change. It was not until after he was elected that we discovered what sort of changes he had in mind and what he wanted to change. Now we know. It is rathger like Nancy Pelosi said. We'll have to pass it before we can tell you what's in it. Now we know and we are unhappy with it, but it is entirely too late. None of our politicians are that keen on our constitution or they would otherwise not be doing the things they are doing now.

    7. jgarbo
      Headmaster

      Re: Even if it were effective...

      As I keep telling children, the Constitution is an old sheet of paper, your "rights" are merely privileges revocable at any time, as is your citizenship when you're old enough. Later I explain the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Most of them get it.

  13. Ralph B

    NSA Backup

    > You should assume every government in the world is spying on SMS messages that pass through their borders

    I think we can also safely assume that all iCloud / Google Drive / Amazon Web Services etc. data is being stored by and/or is accessible to search by the NSA.

    That being the case, it's a pity they can't just rebrand their project as "Dishfire Backup", or somesuch, and let everyone in the world enjoy free, limitless, secure* cloud backup of all their data, in exchange for giving the NSA free reign to poke around in it.

    I don't think people would mind the spying so much, if they could recover (or share) their data, emails, photos, etc. Imagine a global, unlimited DropBox / Flickr combined with permanent revision control**.

    The NSA clearly have this infrastructure already, or are using commercial offerings, so all they have to do is do the decent thing and give people access to their own data!

    *Secure from access by 3rd parties, naturally, not the NSA.

    **You'd never be able to delete anything, ever.

  14. Adam 1

    > This sounds a lot, but bear in mind US mobile users alone send an estimated six billion texts a day.

    Oh ok. Well that is fine and dandy then.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Adam 1

      "> This sounds a lot, but bear in mind US mobile users alone send an estimated six billion texts a day.

      Oh ok. Well that is fine and dandy then."

      Yes, it's actually around the 3% mark if it only counted US SMS traffic. But the sheeple can't see that, they insist the NSA is stopping and reading every SMS, every email, every Twatter, and all the emails too, all whilst watching and recording every single click the sheeple make on their compoohtahs - a baaaah-lief simply too stupid for words. There's an Intel slide (http://scoop.intel.com/what-happens-in-an-internet-minute/) that sums it all up nicely when it talks about the growth in the Internet, and it talks about the average traffic flowing across the 'net every minute. Just in video alone, if you were to sit and watch ALL the video uploaded across the 'net in that one minute it would take you thrity hours, and that's before you try tracking the 1.3 million video viewings going on concurrently. Email is worse with 204 million emails - even if they could read every sngle one, it would take years to do any form of actual information gathering on that size of a data pool without very selective targeting, and that's just one minute's worth! Oh, and the data on the slide is two years out of date - it points out that the number of devices feeding the Internet will have doubled over those when the measure was made by next year. But I suspect the real problem is that the sheeple have a counting problem - "one, two, many, panic!"

      1. nsld
        Facepalm

        @Matt

        Please explain how many targetted individuals the NSA are following if they need tap into 200 million texts per day.

        Even assuming an average of 200 texts per person day thats a 1,000,000 targets!

        How they find time for any terrorism what with all that texting I will never know........

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: nsld Re: @Matt

          "Please explain how many targetted individuals the NSA are following if they need tap into 200 million texts per day....." Please try and borrow a clue from a responsible adult - they are gathering metadata so they can quickly map the people terrorists communicate with when they discover a new or potential terrorist. This was shown with the Boston Marathon bombers - whilst it was almost impossible to have found them beforehand, the quick access to their coms patterns meant the FBI could start checking on their acquaintances to see if they were also suspects. If they had of been part of a larger cell rather than lone-wolf nutjobs then the larger cell would probably have been detected. You are assuming the lack of success of people like AQ means they do not have sympathisers constrained from acting in the States or Europe. An example of sympathisers that ignore the monitoring is Jihad Jane, who wasn't too smart about her coms.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Adam 1

        in 2004, it was reported that the Chinese state employed 30,000 people to monitor their compatriot's SMS messages (at the time 100 million a year) as well as internet traffic for subversive communications.

        http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/china-cracks-down-on-sms/s2/a5970/

        Although physically impossible to monitor everything in real time (a somewhat hyperbolic argument anyway) it doesn't mean bright sparks with lots of tax dollars to spend won't try to capture it, store filter it and mine it later. They might need some *puters though. But at 200 million a day, I'd say the US is already leading in this arms race.

  15. ukgnome

    Oh Heck

    The NSA now knows that I need a pint of milk and that my mortgage application has been processed. I hope that can't see MMS, if they can then they will know about the 60 year old on the train that had a swish pair of Beats!.

  16. Tony Paulazzo

    Eat the rich!

    Ewige Blumenkraft und ewige Schlangenkraft

    Two thirds of the world are still going hungry or cold, whilst one third of the world are eating themselves to death whilst making the very air we breath toxic - and they say the lizards aren't in charge.

    Always cry "Theater" in a crowded fire. 'Bob Dobbs - Church of the Subgenius.'

    Slack is where it's at!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eat the rich!

      fnarr fnord

  17. James Boag

    Most useless Job ever !

    "It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters," a GCHQ spokesman told The Guardian"

    Why do they have a Spokesman then, And why are we paying him !

    1. John 98

      Re: Most useless Job ever !

      Indeed - what's he for and what are any of them for? Can the spooks tell us costs per life saved, losses to criminals prevented and whether we are getting value for money? One suspects traffic cops, kidney machines etc. might be much better value.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Most useless Job ever !

          Downvote for being so seriously lacking in vision that you think space exploration is a waste of money. If this humanity you care about so much has any chance of long-term survival, finding a new home is absolutely vital. There is *nothing* more important, and the global space exploration budget is far too small.

        2. Psyx

          Re: Most useless Job ever !

          If you think space exploration is a waste of time, you're a waste of oxygen.

  18. paulc
    Mushroom

    "Lawfully collected"???

    With a blanket hoovering up of everything? How is that lawfull? "Wiretaps" have to be done on individual phone lines... I would expect the same of SMS data and messages...

    1. Psyx

      Re: "Lawfully collected"???

      "With a blanket hoovering up of everything? How is that lawfull? "Wiretaps" have to be done on individual phone lines... I would expect the same of SMS data and messages..."

      As stated very clearly in the article, this isn't everything. Even basic common sense will indicate to you that the world sends a lot more texts than are intercepted. So it *IS* targeted... kinda. Given maybe 200 'blips' from affected targets per day though, that still indicates a target list of a million.

      As to how it is legal: Easy. Firstly the NSA can legally spy on any non-US citizen, whenever it likes. End of.

      And GCHQ can spy on any non-UK citizen. And every member of the happy intelligence-swapping community can do the same thing. And then they can all swap information, effectively giving everyone a handy way of legally spying on their own people.That's how it works.

      By all means downvote if you don't think that's how it goes down, but if you don't agree with it, spare me the click because I don't like it either, but the truth isn't 'wrong'.

      And whereas wiretaps have to be authorised individually, the metadata does not. There is no legal protection against hoovering it. That's how it's legal.

      Sucky, but legal.

      1. Werner McGoole

        Re: "Lawfully collected"???

        It may be legal in the US for the NSA to snoop on Brits. But who made it legal in the UK for a foreign power (the US) to snoop on us without a warrant issued in the UK (and the same applies to every other non-US country)?

        It seems to me that if the NSA has taps into infrastructure in UK territory, then they are breaking UK law. In that case, the likes of GCHQ should be involved in searching out these taps and turning them off. After all, who do GCHQ work for, us or the NSA?

        Much the same should be happening in all other countries as well.

        1. bigtimehustler

          Re: "Lawfully collected"???

          Indeed this is true, but it benefits the government and GCHQ to ignore what the NSA gets up to so that the information can then be shared back, that way they can listen internally without following due procedure. No one is going to act against their own interests, that is why no one sorts this out.

        2. Psyx

          Re: "Lawfully collected"???

          "But who made it legal in the UK for a foreign power (the US) to snoop on us without a warrant issued in the UK (and the same applies to every other non-US country)?"

          I hate to break this to you, but intelligence agencies generally don't give a sh1t about the laws of the nations that they are spying on. They'd not get much done if they didn't. They get away with it especially easily if they tacitly agree to share the information with the host nation and pretend it came from other sources.

          It doesn't need to be done in the UK, though: International fibre optic links fall outside the national borders, and data gets shunted through dozens of nations.

          Electromagnetic waves don't just stop at the border, either and can be picked up by neighbouring ears. The US has aircraft (RC-135) specifically designed for loitering outside airspace and picking up ELINT. Those aircraft also fly from the UK (or used to), and who says they don't turn on their ears the moment the wheels are up, instead of later in the flight, over international airspace?

          We also allowed the US to build listening posts in the UK, and don't audit them. Obstinately they are to pick up overseas traffic, but that's obviously not the whole story (and let's not throw a paddy too much, because we own such facilities overseas as well). And although it's against the Vienna Convention, all major players use embassies as SIGINT listening posts for too, and there is nothing that can be done about it, because you can't search other people's embassies (and rightly so: It would do far more harm than good). There's also the traditional method of parking 'fishing trawlers' off coastlines in international waters packed with receivers and linguists.

          "It seems to me that if the NSA has taps into infrastructure in UK territory, then they are breaking UK law."

          If they physically tapped in: yes. But SIGINT 'ears' doesn't need to be hardwired. There are plenty of passive ways of getting it, as outlined above.

          "In that case, the likes of GCHQ should be involved in searching out these taps and turning them off. After all, who do GCHQ work for, us or the NSA?"

          How would you go about auditing every telephone exchange in the nation for the latest NSA spy-tech? GCHQ isn't made of money and would be failing in its priorities if it shifted funding from gathering data on our real enemies to finding out what our allies are doing. It would also be self-harm, as we have intelligence-sharing pacts in place that allow us access to that NSA data.

          I don't support or agree with the measures, but those are the plain facts.

        3. Adam 1

          Re: "Lawfully collected"???

          > But who made it legal in the UK for a foreign power (the US) to snoop on us without a warrant issued in the UK (and the same applies to every other non-US country)?

          Hate to break it to you but UK law has no jurisdictionoutside the UK beyond treaty obligations agreed between the countries. That is why women are allowed to drive in the UK in spite of backwards laws in some other countries that forbid it.

          1. Psyx
            Coat

            Re: "Lawfully collected"???

            "That is why women are allowed to drive in the UK"

            But only badly.

            I'll get my coat...

  19. Steeev

    Six Billion?

    "bear in mind US mobile users alone send an estimated six billion texts a day"

    Eh? That's 20 texts per day for _everyone_ in the USA. Shurely shome mishtake!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Six Billion?

      Not a mistake, but an awful lot of spam....

    2. Psyx

      Re: Six Billion?

      "Eh? That's 20 texts per day for _everyone_ in the USA. Shurely shome mishtake!"

      Clearly you are not intimately familiar with the texting habits of the younger generation.

  20. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Megaphone

    The defense for Billy Catriger

    Why so many down votes?

    Apart from the rant at the start, the point, as is form, is in the last sentence....

    "all of our elected officials, pay no attention to the restraints that the our Constitution places on them, and they laugh the matter off as though it were of no consequence. However, it is of consequence. And, Hillary, yes it does matter and it matters a great deal."

    Whom here, is arguing against this? Is this not a cry for Justice and the freedoms enshrined in their constitution?

    1. Psyx

      Re: The defense for Billy Catriger

      We just don't like barely coherent rants (when they aren't funny).

    2. Chris T Almighty

      Re: The defense for Billy Catriger

      "Why so many down votes?"

      The "My political party is an Angel, yours is the Devil" type of rant will normally fall on deaf ears in the UK. In fact we're still perplexed why so many Americans fall for it so easily.

      1. Psyx

        Re: The defense for Billy Catriger

        "'My political party is an Angel, yours is the Devil' type of rant will normally fall on deaf ears in the UK."

        Hush, you evil Tory. :D

        We also don't agree with you because we think it was blinkered, so biased by pre-formed opinions as to make any rational balance of evidence moot, and total drivel.

  21. Psyx

    The interesting number for me is the 6 million SIM card changes per day that they pick up on. That's clearly more than happens in the US each day (assuming the average person keeps a phone for more than a few months), and also far more than would show up on even a large target list (even if there are a million targets for active surveillance, they won't all be changing SIM cards 6 times a day).

    So we can see that it seems that the NSA is widely interested in any change of SIM card, because although most will be routine, a pattern of card-swapping is indicative of someone trying to partially sanitise and separate their communications channels. In short: If you change cards, you might be hiding something, so it's worth pulling your data and flagging you. Nice.

    Likewise, we can see that they have a very broad interest in currency transactions that carves well into the usage patterns of honest citizens.

    The missed calls is interesting too: Call chaining means that they are using the meta-data of a follow-on call to tie to numbers together. Make a call to a targeted phone and if it's not picked up, then it's likely that the next number you phone in the next couple of minutes will either be an alternative number, or someone who can also tell you what you want to know/hear and so has close links to the first number.

  22. Downside

    You're entitled to compensation

    All this snooping would be a lot cheaper if they didn't have to slurp the

    "Your entitled to compensation for that accident" and "You're legally entitled to not pay back your debts" spam I keep getting. I'd like to see the slide that shows how much of that rubbish gets sent every day..

    Anyone that hoped their data was private has quite clearly never worked with technology, or even been paying attention over the last decade or two. Or three. Or four.

    It never will be private, never. It's just data.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do you think this job is easy?

    Please upvote a hard working NSA employee who has to sift through 193k more text messages today.

  24. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    200 million texts a day?

    200 million texts a day - that's about the average SMS-output of a single secondary-school's pupils.

  25. promytius

    best punishment EVER

    Yeah? Now Make them READ every single word! You want to collect it, you gotta read it first! The suicide rate in NSA would skyrocket once they finally realize how much terrorism IS NOT in America! Imagine collecting millions and millions of s##t messages - the american government is perfectly suited for the task. If they analyzed them they might actually figure out what it is about USA that terrorists don't like; that would help them because they wouldn't know what to do with that information, that capitalism is not the best solution either.

  26. Flyberius

    Heavy is spy!

    Spies! Spying?! Whatever will they think of next?

    Please don't respond with your enlightened point of view. I won't understand it.

  27. All names Taken
    Joke

    Nice work if you can get it?

    Maybe the senior and mid management worried about ongoing funding crisis in US decided to go all out on "fear of the unknown" to bag some more hours and many more dollars?

    No?

  28. msknight
    Black Helicopters

    Umm....

    "If you've done nothing wrong,"

    Define, "wrong."

    1. captain veg

      Re: Umm....

      That's easy. Wrong = null.

      "If you've done nothing, you've nothing to hide."

      -A.

  29. Number6

    Random Data Club

    We need a worldwide random data club. At random intervals, generate 1MB of random data, email it to someone else in the club (obviously choose the recipient at random...)

  30. lambda_beta

    Jon Callas, CTO of secure messaging biz Silent Circle

    He is party correct when he said "SMS is a hack – it was never designed to be secure and was thrown together for convenience." SMS was never meant to do what it is doing.

    But it wasn't "thrown together for convenience", it was thrown together to make money - lots of money! And the public, like all things they don't understand, were duped into thinking it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: lambda-beta Re: Jon Callas, CTO of secure messaging biz Silent Circle

      ".....But it wasn't "thrown together for convenience", it was thrown together to make money - lots of money! And the public, like all things they don't understand, were duped into thinking it was the greatest thing since sliced bread." Actually, the telecoms were largely caught out by the success of SMS. I was contracting in the telecoms industry when SMS came out and the telecoms were all betting on WAP as "the next big thing", SMS was largely forgotten child when it came to budgeting, especially advertising. It was the market, the people, that decided SMS was the killer feature, not some devious scheme of the telecoms. Sorry, the people have to take the blame for "duping themselves" into mass usage of what actually turned out to be a popular service.

  31. chris lively

    Yawn

    Here's an idea. Stop red acting stuff and just publish it. Pretty much all of this should be known by anyone with a few brain cells.

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