How The NSA Collects Your Internet Data In Four Charts

Tyler Durden's picture

When it blew the lid open on the NSA domestic spying scandal in conjunction with the Guardian, the Washington Post released the first batch of slides revealing the preliminary details of which Internet firms cooperate in secret with the NSA, unleashing a firestorm of lies and denials by these same private companies (not to mention the administration), whose collaboration with the US government was subsequently revealed to be of symbiotically and mutually beneficial (think massive government contracts and classified data kickbacks in exchange for confidential customer data).

Last night, WaPo released the latest batch of slides given to it by Edward Snowden who appears to have been very busy downloading as much internal NSA info as he could, during his three months at Booz. This time we learn all about the PRISM "tasking" process - or the detail of how the NSA goes about "incidentally" spying on America's citizens (because as much as it is a headline grabber, the NSA spying on the EU, the G-20, and other non-US entities, is after all its job).

From the WaPo:

Acquiring data from a new target

This slide describes what happens when an NSA analyst "tasks" the PRISM system for information about a new surveillance target. The request to add a new target is passed automatically to a supervisor who reviews the "selectors," or search terms. The supervisor must endorse the analyst's "reasonable belief," defined as 51 percent confidence, that the specified target is a foreign national who is overseas at the time of collection.


Analyzing information collected from private companies

After communications information is acquired, the data are processed and analyzed by specialized systems that handle voice, text, video and "digital network information" that includes the locations and unique device signatures of targets.


Each target is assigned a case notation

The PRISM case notation format reflects the availability, confirmed by The Post's reporting, of real-time surveillance as well as stored content.


Searching the PRISM database

On April 5, according to this slide, there were 117,675 active surveillance targets in PRISM's counterterrorism database. The slide does not show how many other Internet users, and among them how many Americans, have their communications collected "incidentally" during surveillance of those targets.

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Skateboarder's picture

"Honey, you hear that? They're watching us. We're famous!"

*dances around the room*

Supernova Born's picture

<--Snowden's info caused a change
<--I have not noticed a change

Have you noticed any difference in the content of any of your phone/email/etc. discussions since Snowden blew the whistle?

Troll Magnet's picture

of course it's different! the shit's gotten waaaaaaaaaaaaay too creepy!

Supernova Born's picture

I used to think gold being manipulated was creepy.


MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

Conspiracy theorists are so annoying. Of course FBI and CIA keep track of terrorists, and some of those terrorists happen to be Americans. If you have nothing to hide then what are you afraid of? Tyler, as an objective reader on this site I find the paranoia in these conspiratorial forums deafening. When are you going to start regulating the content on this site? Lately it's got so out of hand that I'm finding it hard to inject even the slightest bit of reason or objectivity into these forums.

Bearwagon's picture

If you have nothing to hide - you already lost everything! Period!

fockewulf190's picture

"Dammmm yyyoooouuu Tyyyylerrrr Durrrrrdennnnn!!!!!!!". As an uncallused, smallish fist, that which has only known the friction of pens and pencils, produces an almost laughable impact against the polished, hardwood desktop, "Get me Alexander on the phone! I want to know all about this Tyler Durden menance forthwith!"

I'll bet an ASE the above is non-fiction.

GetZeeGold's picture



These days they throw your ass in jail.....after they rough you up......for buying water.


Welcome to just took a little more time than we thought.



cifo's picture

Yeap, he just got the year wrong.

insanelysane's picture

Is it a coincidence that all of the system names are written in Newspeak???

disabledvet's picture

nope. "tomorrow's news today." sir "I just took care of your enemies." "great's the promotion."

espirit's picture

The only secret you keep is hiding the truth from yourself.

prains's picture


you haven't quite mastered doublethink but keep up the mediocre effort

derek_vineyard's picture

anything online is fair game----transparency is a two way street

prains's picture

so are panties but that doesn't give you the right to tear them off, r.a.p.e.o.f.u.r.r.i.g.h.t.s

AldousHuxley's picture

"rights" = temp priviledges given to you by those in power to give you illusion of self-directed destiny in hope that you don't discover how little rights you really have.


you don't have money, guns, publicity, nor institutional positional power, then you have no rights except what color your wash towels are. YOU EXIST TO SERVE the TOP 0.1% The OWNERS. $100,000,000 to become one in USA.


underman's picture

Explain tracking phone calls and texts. 

Chupacabra-322's picture

Here's a nice disclaimer I've added to all email transmissions sent.  Please feel free to pass it on:

WARNING: The National Security Agency is likely recording and storing this communication as part of its unlawful spying programs on all Americans … and people worldwide. The people who created the NSA spying program say that this communication – and any responses – can and will be used against the American people at any time in the future should folks in government decide to go after us for political reasons. And private information in digital communications may be given to big companies by the government.

prains's picture

you haven't quite mastered doublethink but keep up the mediocre effort


yes you have some good double entendre quips but M to be a master you need to go triple entendre with a feedback loop then you're into doublethink,

still way to linear, it's all in the looped feedback of the idea. M so far doesn't stand for Mobius........keep swinging my pigeon toed friend

THX 1178's picture

I always thought something was fishy about the Snowden affair. Watch this video and tell me you still believe he's a real whistleblower...

TeamDepends's picture

Thanks for that.  When they "couldn't" nab him in Hong Kong the crap detecter here went off the scale.  So the only rational conclusion is that they want you to know they are spying on you.  For similar reasons they keep the Zimmerman trial in the headlines as they know it will increase racial tensions, thus distracting the public from the truly serious problems we face.

tsx500's picture

yup exactly.            they don't care  if people hate them , as long as we FEAR them .   FORWARD !!

nmewn's picture

Ya know, I been thinkin about that..."They want us to know we're being watched." What better way to stifle freedom of speech than for everyone to be paranoid about what we say.

Fuck em...I think its time to lead off every comment with something provocative.



DaddyO's picture

The Constitution is the whipping boy of the that provocative enough?

Very good video and inline with what I have posted here on ZH in several other threads. ES is being handled by someone and it appears to be his "former" employer, the CIA.

From jump street this whole affair appeared to be a very well scripted event straight out of Central "intelligence" Casting, the Rogue Patriot, the jilted Hot Girlfriend, safe harbor issues and on and on it goes.

It won't stop until whomever is directing the actors gets the desired effect.

Flushing out certain groups sympathetic to one side or the other?

Appearing to create strife and tension within the diplomatic community?

The questions are endless, but my original thought remains that it is payback for taking down Patreaus and those loyal to him and his ilk.


nmewn's picture

Yeah, I can see why people would think that.

But I still think the charade (if it is) was unecessary.

The whole thing was dumped in the medias lap (even if the media is on the take and most of it is) right after Holder is caught lying, saying Rosen was a "co-conspirator" in order to get a search warrant, copying journalists phone records at the AP and Attkisson's computer being hacked, no way was all the press gonna sit on this.

Then the IRS scandal hit.

If it is NSA/CIA, it could have been an anonymous dump and achieve the same result.

Now whether Snowden was allowed access to achieve the result desired, is another matter...but I still think he's legit until proven otherwise.

The larger question is, why would they want the world to know everyone is being monitored and how they do it? Either way, its to tamp down open dissent...IMO.

We're getting to cocky to them? back to my car bomb building ;-)

kchrisc's picture

After the people, the two things they, the pols, crats and banksters, fear most are truth and guns. The first removes the rug out from under their lies and the other removes them.

Oldwood's picture

Exactly, Be carefull of what you say and to whom. This is what they are telling us. We are watching you...right? And dare not defend yourself from an attack of a black man because regardless of guilt or innocence, youw ill be publicly destroyed. Do not criticise your government or you are a threat and do not criticise your president or you are a racist. This is all about SILENCING us. You are being watched, and even if you do not break any written laws, you will be harrassed, audited and possibly arrested and publicly destroyed by rhe very media that is tasked to defend our liberties but now turns the other way in an effort to retain what power and supposed freedom they still possess. Snowden has simply allowed them to put a ribbon on years of implied but denied threats to our freedoms.  Ultimately nothing has been revealed that we didn't already know or suspect. As with the IRS abuses, anything that does show up as proof will be minimized and attributed to rogue or inept employees, but never anything systemic or deliberate. And those who suggest that while these powers are indeed dangerous but needed, are convinced that laws of constitutionally based legislation are somehow going to restrain abuses, are deluded. They say that they can pull these powers at first hint of abuse, proof of which will come in the form of a legal suite. I say bullshit to that. Regular citizens, once having felt the firm grasp of these powers at their shoulders are NOT going to ask for a boot on the neck by filing suite in a court of law that these people full well control. Look for those who have tried and how did they end up? Which whistleblower has a statue  on the Washington Mall. The threats are real, we all know it, not just in our guts but in our brains now, and will act accordingly. Heads down and look both ways when crossing the street.

bigkahuna's picture

Its coming around. This whole Snowden story is a snow job. This video actually fields a plausible explanation: because the CIA is not happy with the NSA getting more funding, which means less funding for the CIA.

fockewulf190's picture

What if Snowden is in reality an unwitting(?) electronic "Typhoid Mary" spreading Stuxnet 2.0 all over the place. Look for another Intelligence Star to be placed on a certain wall in the upcoming months.

AmericanFUPAcabra's picture

Good call. It's all bullshit, reads like a shitty spy novel. Articles are getting leaked with perfect timing and he tells them where hes going but they cant find him?  Always one step ahead...Give me a fucking break, they can stop any flights they want to. Plus everything he has come forth with was known about in 06' and 08' and no one gave a fuck then. Picture of a russian jet landing in Iceland the other day at 3am. Russia doesnt charter flights to iceland. Nor could you get a direct flight from iceland/china to cuba. l o l. wake up people.

toxic8's picture

yes... very good thoughts THX... I was all for this guy who looked like he could adorn the cover of the Half Life VG Box, and the movement, the message but I have to say a HUGE red flag that it was being parrotted everywhere on MSM, we all know real issues get swept under the carpet

now, hypothetically of course, would anyone be surprised if Edward "disappears" or dies an untimely or tragic death, what a shame that would be, wouldn't it?

The epic struggle, lost to the powers that be, not only is it now in the mass consciousness that "they are watching us" but so it would be burned into the collective that "resistance is futile" ... and fatal.

Always question, and re-question, and question again..

PS now that I think about it, the clampdown / backlash / draconian tactics and smear campaign on whistleblowers AND the journalists aiding them ... including The official "Federal Snitch on your co-worker" program seem a very convenient & efficient response to this possibly controlled leak...


spekulatn's picture

Deleted by the author


Freddie's picture

Well this may end up in their Stasi database but it must be said:

Paul Krugman is a douchebag.

Cloud9.5's picture


For God’s sake people, go back and review the Hoover Files.  J. Edgar Hoover spent millions gathering information on his political enemies so that he could use black mail anytime one of them became powerful enough to threaten his belief system or his empire.  This information gathering is not about protecting us.  If it had been, the pressure cooker bombers would have been apprehended before they blew the legs off of people at the Boston Marathon.


This is about watching perceived enemies of the state like the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement.  This is about control.


Treason Season's picture

...and Lansky ran Hoover and Rothschilds/Rockefeller run/ran them all or is it the Committe of 300 or is it the Olympians or the Reptilians?!?!

prains's picture

Septogenarians! damn those blue hairs

DaddyO's picture

Hey, easy there, I resemble that remark...


prains's picture

stay thirsty my friend

monoloco's picture

Given the prominence of Booz/Allen aka The Carlyle Group in the gathering of intelligence, one has to wonder if said information could have been used to co-opt politicians into being tools for the oligarchy so heavily represented by Carlyle. Considering that the president did a complete 180º reversal on most of his campaign promises of 08 after being elected, is it too far fetched to wonder if he was visited by representatives of the plutocracy bearing electronic evidence of illegal, immoral, or embarassing activities and presented with the option of being ruined personally, politically, and financially, or doing as he is told and enjoying the benefits of power? I think we all know what any egotistical, narcissistic and greedy politician would choose. Tin foil hat stuff? Maybe, but the fact that a scenario like this is possible is reason enough to rein in the unfettered gathering of electronic surveillance on our citizenry.

TeamDepends's picture

Their legs were already blown off!!!!  "Jeff Bauman" is an amputee crisis actor!  Think of the infamous picture of the "cowboy" wheeling him to safety.  First of all, he would have lost so much blood there is no way he could be conscious.  Second, what kind of EMT genius would put someone with that type of injury in a wheelchair so that what little blood they had left in their body would squirt on out into the street!!!  How do these crisis actors sleep at night (thinking of you "Robbie Parker")?

phaedrus1952's picture

And barely two and a half weeks later - 19 days to be exact - said Mr. Bauman was vigorously waving a large pole-mounted flag overhead while sitting upright in a wheelchair at a Bruins game. Video watchable on youtube.  This is by far the most disprovable, blatant display of conspiracy theory actually being conspiracyi FACT! Such massive trauma would entail months of bedridden, extensive recovery if a person were even able to survive at all.

francis_sawyer's picture

Just a few weeks after that... The fucker was throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game...



Cloud9.5's picture


Secret FBI files exclusively seen by the Sunday People reveal Michael Jackson spent £23million buying the silence of at least two dozen young boys he abused over 15 years.


The documents – case numbers CADCE MJ-02463 and CR 01046 – were not passed on to prosecutors in the King of Pop’s 2005 trial, when he was cleared of molesting a child.



Check out all the latest News, Sport & Celeb gossip at

Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook



And now we have this where the feds spied on this creep, knew what he was doing and yet, never ended his abuse of these children.  Explain to me again the purpose of this spying.  If you cannot see this for what it is you are dumber than a rock.


Long-John-Silver's picture

If you have nothing to hide - you already lost everything! Period!


Now I understand why people take their clothing off and walk around naked in public.

Svendblaaskaeg's picture

"Tyler, as an objective reader on this site I find the paranoia in these conspiratorial forums deafening"

agreed, talking to yourself is paranoia ;-)

nmewn's picture

Suicide bomber!

Thats my impression of MDB ;-)

AlaricBalth's picture

My impression of MDB is that of a middle aged white guy sitting in his underwear and stained tank top, slurping a 32 oz Coke and noshing on Hot Pockets as he navigates in front of a double screen configuration with porno on one monitor and ZH on the other.

DaddyO's picture

Now that is an imaginative visual and scary as hell! Although it doesn't fit the intelligently cognitive writings of MDB, I say he is the diminutive alter ego of one of the Tylers.

Just Saying...