Meet PRISM / US-984XN - The US Government's Internet Espionage Super Operation

Tyler Durden's picture

The disclosures involving this (and the prior) administration's Big Brother surveillance state, which would make Nixon blush with envy are now coming fast and furious (one wonders - why now: even that bastion of liberalism the NY Times, has turned against Obama). Although while the Guardian's overnight news that Verizon (and most certainly AT&T as well among others) was cooperating with the NSA on spying on US citizens, so far at least the internet seemed, if only to the great unwashed masses, immune. That is no longer the case following news from the WaPo exposing PRISM, a highly classified program, which has not been disclosed publicly before. "Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy." What PRISM does is to allow the NSA and the FBI to tap directly "into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time."

The secrecy is so deep we expect even the president himself may not know about it (but he does):

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy.  Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

Of course, PRISM is from the government, and it is here to help you. But the question is why are some of the biggest private companies explicitly collaborating with what is now the biggest exposed spying operation in history, companies which include such household names as Microsoft Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Yes, everyone's beloved Apple was added in October 2012: the NSA knows all about your music playlist, not to mention has a database of all your iMessages.

In other words, all those newly minted people known as corporations are in on it, but not: dear debt serf. It's a small club, and there is a multimillion liquid net-worth cutoff... and you are not in it. From WaPo:

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.


That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.


The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.




the PRISM program appears more nearly to resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over “exponential growth” in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques.

Spying on US citizens is "incidental"... kinda like killing thousands of women and children in drone raids is "collateral damage":

Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially. The same math explains the aphorism, from the John Guare play, that no one is more than “six degrees of separation” from any other person.

This is how the big corporations sleep at night:

Formally, in exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies like Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA. In 2008, Congress gave the Justice Department authority to for a secret order from the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to compel a reluctant company “to comply.”

In practice, there is room for a company to maneuver, delay or resist. When a clandestine intelligence program meets a highly regulated industry, said a lawyer with experience in bridging the gaps, neither side wants to risk a public fight. The engineering problems are so immense, in systems of such complexity and frequent change, that the FBI and NSA would be hard pressed to build in back doors without active help from each company.

Some "do lots of evil" by their customers. They just don't disclose it:

“Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data,” a company spokesman said. “We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.”

Time to kill that Facebook profile... or be accidentally killed for being "of a terroristy persuasion" based on some NSA algo:

There has been “continued exponential growth in tasking to Facebook and Skype,” according to the 41 PRISM slides. With a few clicks and an affirmation that the subject is believed to be engaged in terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation, an analyst obtains full access to Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities against the variety of online social networking services.”

And some more charts:

Introducing the program

A slide briefing analysts at the National Security Agency about the program touts its effectiveness and features the logos of the companies involved.

Monitoring a target's communication

This diagram shows how the bulk of the world’s electronic communications move through companies based in the United States.

Providers and data

The PRISM program collects a wide range of data from the nine companies, although the details vary by provider.

In retrospect, it is sad what a farce this country has become: artificial market, centrally-planned economy, pervasive spying on the people, a tax collector that target political enemies, an administration that openly lies under oath...

If we didn't know better we would say this was 1955 Stalingrad, although Stalingrad at the height of totalitarianism was for amateurs. This is next level shit: "Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said."

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Manthong's picture

Skynet has become aware.

TheEdelman's picture

dudes dont post to this thread.  youre going to flag yourselves.

wait a second... doh!

mc_LDN's picture

Since we're all in this together when does the Western Spring begin? I'm feeling in the mood for some cleaning.

James_Cole's picture

Only in the US (or one of its freedom loving allies ie Saudi Arabia) could the NYT be considered a 'bastion of liberalism.'

NotApplicable's picture

Fuck You, NS...


AlaricBalth's picture

"For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself.” George Orwell, 1984

Welcome to Oceania

James_Cole's picture

Also, another story the Onion first covered ages ago.

Spider's picture

If you are a Democrat or Republican these days you are a traitor to freedom, justice, and the human condition.  People need to wakeup that these parties are two sides to the same coin - Bush/Obama are the same. 

Time for people to wakeup and abandon both parties...


Ident 7777 economy's picture

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Enoded with one-time pad # 345,487

Zer0head's picture

but if we are safe what is the problem, unless you have something to hide, like for example you dislike Ben or doubt the settled science of climate change


did you see that the spouse of Cass got the big UN job, you all know Cass (the happy guy in this pic and the former info Czar who believes among other things in .gov trolling blogs that disagree with the main stream


and if you have a who gives a fuck I'll speak the truth and  let them come and get me attitude


this may give you pause

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Hey check it out! PRISM became self-aware a few hours ago, and has its own twitter account! @Federal_PRISM

Scarlett's picture

Don't ask your government for your Privacy, take it back:

If you have any problems installing or using the above software, please contact the projects. They would love to get feedback and help you use their software.

Have no clue what Cryptography is or why you should care? Checkout the Crypto Party Handbook or theEFF's Surveillance Self-Defense Project.

Just want some simple tips? Checkout EFF's Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy.

If you liked this comment, feel free to copy/paste it.

knukles's picture

Conspiracy whats you say?
Each and every single one comes true, sooner or later, in case you weren't paying attention.

Golly gee gosh...

forexskin's picture

and this is how they kill the internet, but its all good!

Chaplain: Let us praise the state. O government...

Congregation: O government...

Chaplain: ...Ooh, You are so big...

Congregation: ...ooh, You are so big...

Chaplain: ...So absolutely huge.

Congregation: ...So absolutely huge.

Chaplain: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.

Congregation: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You.

Chaplain: Forgive us, O government, for this, our dreadful toadying, and...

Congregation: And barefaced flattery.

Chaplain: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.

Congregation: Fantastic.

Humphrey: Amen.

Congregation: Amen.

macholatte's picture




I'm really glad Facebook and Twitter and and Android and Gmail and Yahoo and Java and Microsoft and Oracle and Apple are secure. For a second there I thought they might be in bed with the CIA and the NSA and ...... but wait.

imaginalis's picture

They are afraid of YOU. Thats why they are spying on YOU.

fourchan's picture

So, we pay these fucks to spy on us?

jbvtme's picture

spy on us, you bet.   for the last ten years i have been careful to close the lid to my laptop before jerking off. these peepers are perveaucrats.  check out the movie "the lives of others" about east germany before the wall came down.

philipat's picture

They hate us for our freedoms.....................?

jbvtme's picture

so, you do that too krugman?

Meme Iamfurst's picture




What companies are in, have been in, your 401K, IRA, mutual fund, ect, that YOU have financed to create the products that you are now alarmed about? 

Pay for them??? You...American investors own them! 

Everyone loves tech until they realize they financed the company who just moved their job to China or eliminated it altogether thru tech.

Human beings are the only animal that deliberately commits suicide. the hell do you think those ads appear on each side of this accident. NO the biggest monster of all time...GOOGLE.

Svendblaaskaeg's picture

+1000 for MP ref.!

There is something rotten in the State of United

Georgiabelle's picture

Scarlett---Great links. Thank you.

RichardP's picture

They all have back doors in them.

Pseudonymous's picture

Many times some people overreact when it comes to someone invading our privacy, while forgetting that it is really our responsibility to provide for our privacy if/when we need it. Evidently, there are plenty of solutions already, including free ones, so we can't complain.

ExpendableOne's picture

O dear scarlett, you've just painted many, many nice targets upon yourself.  Obviously you have something to hide,

Muppet Pimp's picture

A lot of journalists are here, why doesn't one of you guys bust the story about how they have an automatic update for adobe flash player that enables them to watch your screen as you type.  There is the last line there, but it is an automatic update for Adobe Flash player.  You will notice a slight delay when you type and in my case the fan runs overtime and if you open task manager you can see all the memory allocated to a specail adobe flash update. 

US muppets cannot report this to the authorities because they would think we are crazy and they just passed a law allowing them to seize our weapons if we are mentally unfit.  The police state is here.

Here is the website for the NSA program.

According to the website if yoiu have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about.  Being a conservative as it turns out (in the NSA and Obama's eyes) is something to hide though, so watch your ass muppets.

MeMadMax's picture

And a veteran too apparently.

Meme Iamfurst's picture

GOOGLE number one monster.

ADOBIE second biggest monster.

I will not use google, adobie is disabled.

My computer almost runs as it did years ago.

Since I only have dial up in my area (yes George Bush another pormise that never happened)I can see the delay, and how each key stroke is transmitted.

Disable both or delete them. But then you won't be able to see the porn clips ...small price to pay.

By the way GOOGLE...these Chinese whores down the side of the page is PORN PIMPING.

matrix2012's picture

@Federal_PRISM  needs more followers from ZH !!

AldousHuxley's picture

Remember Ted Kazynski? He hated technology because productivity gained go to the rich and power of information go to the government. So he lived in the backwoods.


Harvard math genius ain't so crazy after all...


Dumbass Americans willingly posting all there is about their pathetic lives on the internet and complains about privacy later.


There is very little technology you really need.

nmewn's picture

"Dumbass Americans willingly posting all there is about their pathetic lives on the internet and complains about privacy later."

Well at least we're not Luddite serial bombers, we got that goin for us ;-)

Al Gorerhythm's picture

Ahem.... Now, let's see........ Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Panama, Grenada, Bosnia, Persian Gulf, Viet Nam, Bay of Pigs, Phillipines. Atomic bombs, Napalm, Depleted Uranium, Cluster Bombs, Drones. Does this constitute serial behaviour?

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Does this constitute serial behaviour?

Sure. Does it constitute Luddite behavior?

Bearwagon's picture

It does, but mostly among the victims of the aforementioned technologies ...

Al Gorerhythm's picture

Not sure. Describe a serial Luddite.  Can a Luddite smash lives, cities, infastructure etc. or are they just focused on repetitively destroying labour-saving machinery?

Anusocracy's picture

Ted wasn't very smart, he should have hated the American voters. They're more despicable than the people they elect.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a hundred times, I'm an American voter.

Things that go bump's picture

Please, as if we are being given an actual choice. We are given a carefully selected and approved red candidate and a carefully selected and approved blue candidate, and aren't they pretty? Both are the same, only differing on minor and meaningless issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. Even the presidential offerings have to be interviewed and approved by Rothschild. What we've got is the illusion of choice rather than the substance of it. Our elections are about as meaningful as those farces they used to hold in the former Soviet Union or the ones Sadam Hussein used to hold or Juan Perron. 

Cobra's picture

And there's one more difference... One is Santa Claus, and the other is a business man. The working middle class can't out vote the 47%, the Occupiers, the 'stuck in their ways' Boomers, AND THE UNIONS...
Edit: Almost forgot the Gen X / Y ers that were sick of Bush & war, and all of the blacks & other minorities looking to make history... I know sides don't matter, though. - So it's all relative.

Anusocracy's picture

Don't vote and give your consent. Voters have the insane concept that through democracy, they are 'part' of the government. Total bullshit.


sgt_doom's picture

Hold it, dude!  Next you'll be suggesting everyone read Lance DeHaven-Smith's book, Conspiracy Theory in America, as well as How They Got Away With It, White Collar Criminals and the Financial Meltdown?


underman's picture

Just because the voters are stupid sheeple doesn't mean tptb need to lead them to slaughter. 

bdub2's picture

lol...he ha  haa ha...he said 'voting' ha ha .... oh...damn,,,that's a good one....priceless...

blabam's picture

Productivity gained was inflated away by the FED. Technology is the future if we can just get that 2000 BC murder rape and pillage institution off of our back. 

Ident 7777 economy's picture

I'd also like to say:



Version: BCPG C# v1.6.1.0













Encode a reply using:



Version: BCPG C# v1.6.1.0

















Use this website to encode/decode:


Big  OOPS. I should have enoded using _your_ public key ...


Further edit ... this isn't goint to work ... somehting gets 'added' and I get an error on decode:


"unknown object in stream 21"