The Intercept 5-16-16… “The Most Intriguing Spy Stories From 166 Internal NSA Reports”

the_intercept_header_4This is an interesting collection of stories which Micah Lee and Margot Williams have assembled.

Shock and Awe: The Iraq War in SID… In the first months of the Iraq War, SIDtoday articles bragged about the NSA’s part in the run-up to the invasion and reflected the Bush administration’s confidence that Saddam Hussein had hidden weapons of mass destruction… NSA’s Iraq War tasks would include “researching possible locations of stockpiled WMD material.”

Hunting a Russian Mobster, “Mr. Kumarin”… In an example of highly targeted intelligence gathering, the NSA spent “many months” acquiring the phone number of a Russian organized crime figure and began intercepting his calls… In 2009, the Russian authorities tried and convicted Vladimir Kumarin… for fraud and money laundering… He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Orbital Signals Intelligence… For more than 30 years, one SIDtoday article from June 2003 explained, the NSA had tapped into communications from foreign satellites… it made FORNSAT sound like an intelligence gold mine… It also explained what sorts of information the NSA gleaned from satellites — “intelligence derived from diplomatic communications … airline reservations and billing data … traffic about terrorists, international crime, weapons of mass destruction … international finance and trade.”

Technology Pushed NSA Into the Tablet Era — and Tons of Gear Went Missing… One theme that emerges from early 2003 SIDtoday installments is that the NSA was grappling with how to handle advances in information technology, particularly the proliferation of mobile devices and online networks… The document also stated that $27 million worth of equipment remained “unaccounted for” after the prior year’s audit, which ended just two months earlier.

Demand for NSA Intelligence Became “Voracious”… The Signals Intelligence Directorate is full of expert spies, but they don’t choose who to spy on themselves… the “customer” decides, customers “including all departments of the executive branch,” according to the agency’s website. And the demand from customers exploded in 2003, judging from a series of SIDtoday articles about the Customer Relationships Directorate, an office focused on ensuring that NSA’s customers get what they need.”


The Most Intriguing Spy Stories From 166 Internal NSA Reports
Micah Lee, Margot Williams

In the early months of 2003, the National Security Agency saw demand for its services spike as a new war in Iraq, as well as ongoing and profound changes in how people used the internet, added to a torrent of new agency work related to the war on terror, according to a review of 166 articles from a restricted agency newsletter.

The Intercept today is releasing the first three months of SIDtoday, March 31 through the end of June 2003, using files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In addition, we are releasing any subsequent 2003 installments of SIDtoday series that began during this period. The files are available for download here.

We combed through these files with help from other writers and editors with an eye toward finding the most interesting stories, among other concerns.

SIDtoday was launched just 11 days into the U.S. invasion of Iraq by a team within the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate. SID is arguably the NSA’s most important division, responsible for spying on the agency’s targets, and SIDtoday became, as Peter Maass documents in an accompanying article, an invaluable primer on how the NSA breaks into and monitors communications systems around the world.

At the outset, SIDtoday declared that its mission was to “bring together communications from across the SIGINT Directorate in a single webpage” and that one of its key areas of focus would be providing “information on the Iraq Campaign and Campaign Against Terrorism.” And, indeed, the first issues of SIDtoday document how the agency paved the way for the Iraq War with diplomatic intelligence, supported the targeting of specific enemies in Iraq, and continued servicing existing “customers” like the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, whose appetite for signals intelligence grew sharply after the Sept. 11 attacks.

While the agency was helping in Iraq, NSA personnel were also involved in interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, SIDtoday articles show, working alongside the military and CIA at a time when prisoners there were treated brutally. The Intercept’s Cora Currier describes the NSA’s involvement with the interrogations in a separate story, one that also documents how the agency helped with the capture and rendition to Guantánamo of a group of Algerian men in Bosnia.

Other highlights from this set of documents follow below…

Read the rest here:

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