Are You Targeted By The NSA?

Tyler Durden's picture

Meet XKeyscore - "a computer network exploitation system", as described in an NSA presentation, devoted to gathering "nearly everything a user does on the internet." The German site Das Erste has exposed the shocking truth about the rules used by the NSA to decide who is a "target" for surveillance. While the NSA claims to only "target" a small fraction of internet users, the perhaps unsurprising truth is very different. As Boing Boing concludes, one expert suggested that the NSA's intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats -- to split the entire population of the Internet into "people who have the technical know-how to be private" and "people who don't" and then capture all the communications from the first group.

As Das Erste describes it,

The NSA program XKeyscore is a collection and analysis tool and "a computer network exploitation system", as described in an NSA presentation. It is one of the agency’s most ambitious programs devoted to gathering "nearly everything a user does on the internet." The source code contains several rules that enable agents using XKeyscore to surveil privacy-conscious internet users around the world. The rules published here are specifically directed at the infrastructure and the users of the Tor Network, the Tails operating system, and other privacy-related software.

And Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing summarizes,

In a shocking story on the German site Tagesschau (Google translate), Lena Kampf, Jacob Appelbaum and John Goetz report on the rules used by the NSA to decide who is a "target" for surveillance.


Since the start of the Snowden story in 2013, the NSA has stressed that while it may intercept nearly every Internet user's communications, it only "targets" a small fraction of those, whose traffic patterns reveal some basis for suspicion. Targets of NSA surveillance don't have their data flushed from the NSA's databases on a rolling 48-hour or 30-day basis, but are instead retained indefinitely.

The authors of the Tagesschau story have seen the "deep packet inspection" rules used to determine who is considered to be a legitimate target for deep surveillance, and the results are bizarre.


According to the story, the NSA targets anyone who searches for online articles about Tails -- like this one that we published in April, or this article for teens that I wrote in May -- or Tor (The Onion Router, which we've been posted about since 2004). Anyone who is determined to be using Tor is also targeted for long-term surveillance and retention.


Tor and Tails have been part of the mainstream discussion of online security, surveillance and privacy for years. It's nothing short of bizarre to place people under suspicion for searching for these terms.

More importantly, this shows that the NSA uses "targeted surveillance" in a way that beggars common sense. It's a dead certainty that people who heard the NSA's reassurances about "targeting" its surveillance on people who were doing something suspicious didn't understand that the NSA meant people who'd looked up technical details about systems that are routinely discussed on the front page of every newspaper in the world.


But it's not the first time the NSA has deployed specialized, highly counterintuitive wordsmithing to play games with the public, the law and its oversight. From James Clapper's insistence that he didn't lie to Congress about spying on Americans because he was only intercepting all their data, but not looking at it all; to the internal wordgames on evidence in the original Prism leak in which the NSA claimed to have "direct access" to servers from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, etc, even though this "direct access" was a process by which the FBI would use secret warrants to request information from Internet giants without revealing that the data was destined for the NSA.

I have known that this story was coming for some time now, having learned about its broad contours under embargo from a trusted source. Since then, I've discussed it in confidence with some of the technical experts who have worked on the full set of Snowden docs, and they were as shocked as I was.

One expert suggested that the NSA's intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats -- to split the entire population of the Internet into "people who have the technical know-how to be private" and "people who don't" and then capture all the communications from the first group.

Another expert said that s/he believed that this leak may come from a second source, not Edward Snowden, as s/he had not seen this in the original Snowden docs; and had seen other revelations that also appeared independent of the Snowden materials. If that's true, it's big news, as Snowden was the first person to ever leak docs from the NSA. The existence of a potential second source means that Snowden may have inspired some of his former colleagues to take a long, hard look at the agency's cavalier attitude to the law and decency.

*  *  *

And just this week it was all found perfectly legal... But it appears the US continues to make friends wherever it goes...

The German attorney Thomas Stadler, who specializes in IT law, commented: "The fact that a German citizen is specifically traced by the NSA, in my opinion, justifies the reasonable suspicion of the NSA carrying out secret service activities in Germany.


For this reason, the German Federal Public Prosecutor should look into this matter and initiate preliminary proceedings."

So now you know - you are all being watched...

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NotApplicable's picture

Not surprised in the least, and it's the very reason I don't try to cover my tracks, as it only makes bigger tracks.

CH1's picture

it's the very reason I don't try to cover my tracks, as it only makes bigger tracks.

Dude, you took the bait.

Sitting naked in front of the thug and hoping he's gentle is a bad idea.

NotApplicable's picture

Other than running my mouth here, I try to become part of the background noise, rather than the signal.

If I have anything private I want to do, the LAST place I would do it is on the internets. I don't even use email anymore except for work and shopping lists from the wife.

CH1's picture

If I have anything private I want to do, the LAST place I would do it is on the internets. I don't even use email anymore except for work and shopping lists from the wife.

That I can understand. :)

LetThemEatRand's picture

It bears repeating -- they hate us for our freedoms.

CH1's picture


The NSA hates us for using our freedoms!

Troll Magnet's picture

If I don't like being "monitored," does that make me a racist?

CCanuck's picture

yes....if you are white everything you do is raycist,

SoberOne's picture

If you are reading this, you are being targeted.  Hash tag fight club. 

The Alarmist's picture

You are being targeted even if you aren't reading this.  New first rule about fight club -- no hash tags.

MontgomeryScott's picture

What's the matter, McFly?



Let me spell this out. Nineteen Eighty-Six (The release date for this song).

I wonder what the release date for 'Electric Eye' by Judas Preist was? I watched them live at the Irvine Meadows Ampitheater in Orange County, CA., back in 1987 during their 'Turbo Fuel For Life' worldwide tour, and THIS SONG was by far the most popular. Overflow crowd (approaching 120,000 people). Oh, I see that it was 1982!

Predictive Fracking Programming, you know.

What the FRACK do you think the 'HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE' program was all about? Do you think naievely that it was 'JET PROPULSION LABRATORY's attempt to look at the UNIVERSE? GTFOOH! JPL is a pseudo-contractor of the MIC! They have been reading license plates from space since about 1975, you dipstick!

Let me 'clue you in', here. The symbol AKA '#' doesn't really mean SHIT. They are looking for KEY WORDS and PHRASES. "BOMB, 9/11, Federal Reserve, Terror, ISIS, ISIL, 'Dirty bomb', and other such words and phrases are a standard part of their search algorythms. The 'hashtag' shit is simply a truncation for them to monitor for these ('Facebook' is a total sellout to the CIA and the NSA; as it was funded by them specifically as 'seed money').

I hope you enjoyed the video links.



Real Estate Geek's picture

Ha!  The first slide has the program's email address.

SoberOne's picture

Just watched the new Robocop.  It was great, including the doublespeak...

TeamDepends's picture

If you're not on the list, you're no friend of mine.

economics9698's picture

Fuck you NSA.  Can you read these words?  Go fuck yourself.  Can you read this?  You know my name, you know where I live mother fucker.  Fuck you NSA.  Come and get it.

MeMadMax's picture

The first thing they teach us in Network Security 101 is: "Any computer(or device) that is connected to the internet is considered unsecured". 

The same held true when I was in the navy. The military has a whole seperate network that is physically seperate from the networked systems that are connected to the internet.

Stalkedbyhackers01's picture

Titus, interesting name you used did you get it from viewing my comments made via yahoo search engine then reposted on zerohedge? Yes I am the guy being stalked by hackers who has has been hitlisted. Hi  zerohedge community it's me the guy who'se had his identity hijacked.

funthea's picture

I wonder what the release date for 'Electric Eye' by Judas Preist was? I watched them live at the Irvine Meadows Ampitheater in Orange County, CA., back in 1987 during their 'Turbo Fuel For Life' worldwide tour, and THIS SONG was by far the most popular. Overflow crowd (approaching 120,000 people). Oh, I see that it was 1982!

Except the part that Irvine meadows only has a capacity of 16,085 people. Just sayin...

MontgomeryScott's picture

SO, HOW does the NSA know I'm out chasing a little Tail? I suppose all the cameras in the singles bars are broadcasting... all those fucking 'smart-phones' everyone else has (including the girls I want to get in to bed) don't help, either.

I mean, I can't even get a little skirt without some perv at the NSA knowing about it! (yeah, it's 'sarc')

Bills in State legislatures in California and Utah are proposing cutting off the water to the NSA. That one's gonna be difficult, though, because the EPA is currently trying to take control of ALL the water in the CONUS.

Oh yeah, FUCK EVERY THREE-LETTER AGENCY! Let me add a 'hashtag' here: #. THERE, YOU FUCKERS, did you get this posting (no, not the good people at ZH, the OTHER readers here who are in to... [what's the expression for a pervert that likes to look through keyholes while people are fucking and jack off in the hallway?] CYBER-VOYERISM)?

Happy fucking Fourth Of July, CONUS.

How's that 'freedom' thing working out, anyway? Didja buy some Chinese-made firecrackers and some German beer and some GMO-fed beef for the Chinese-made barbeque, and are you waving that Sri-lankan-made 'merkun' flag? CAREFUL, the 'roided out cops might show up (tipped off by a tweet or a posting on the 'net, given out by the N S fucking A,) and shoot your dog and tazer your wife (just because they want to).

('XKEYSTROKE' is actually rather OLD news, by the way)

If you'd like to hear a story about how my home computer (not THIS one) was hacked in to by the NSA in about May 2008, and listen to the reason why this happened, just ask me. They let go of me after three weeks, by the way (but I KNOW they are logging every keystroke that I make at both of my locations via 'XKEYSTROKE'). It was kind of disquieting watching my cursor move all over the screen by itself, and seeing all my 'homepages' reset to a location in Alexandria, VA.. I looked the location up (just out of curiosity), and you KNOW what I found.It was kind of neat in a way, though, because Yahoo, AOL, and MSN ALL gave me the local news from the D.C area.

varnelius's picture

Hate to crush your ego, but that wasn't the NSA.  Only a garden variety hacker would make it so obvious that your system was compromised.

TahoeBilly2012's picture

If the NSA knows what I am doing then they know I have fucked more hot young pussy in the last 2 years then I have since I was 17. Get a whiff there boys?

varnelius's picture

WTF does your comment have to do with my comment?  And yes I did -1 you.

slightlyskeptical's picture

You still have your freedom, but it seems that now you are really accountable for it.

Of course they try to seek out what is hidden from them. lends a bit of a new meaning to the whole ..."if you have nothing to hide".

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Their logic is impeccable.  If you want to track a SEC employee, you go to the PORN sites and track them there....

kchrisc's picture

"It bears repeating -- they hate us for our freedoms."

They hate us for being less, so far, oppressed by the DC US than they are.

Soon we will hate them for their freedom.

r00t61's picture

I found this originally last year, when the whole Snowden business was really boiling over, and it seems appropriate to repeat.

Troll the NSA.

"Hey! How’s it going? I’m all right.

My job is so shitty I wish I could overthrow my boss. It’s like this oppressive regime where only true believers in his management techniques will stay around. I work marathon-length hours and he’s made all these changes that have made it the worst architecture firm to work at in Manhattan. Like he moved the office to the Financial District and fired my assistant. She was the only one who knew where the blueprints were! I need access to those blueprints to complete my job! F my life, right? And he keeps trying to start all these new initiatives to boost revenue, but seriously we just need to stick to what we do best. There’s only one true profit center. I seriously feel ready to go on strike at any second.

I just read this article about how these free radical particles can cause the downfall of good health and accelerate aging. These could actually cause death to millions of Americans. If these particles are flying around undetected everywhere, does that mean we’re all radicalized?

Have you seen the second season of Breaking Bad? I just finished it. I couldn’t believe that episode where they poison the guy with ricin! That was the bomb! I won’t say any more because I don’t want to reveal the earth-shattering events to come.

Oh! So I’ve been planning a big trip for the summer. I’m thinking of visiting all of the most famous suspension bridges in the United States. So probably like the Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I’m gonna bring my younger brother and I know he’ll want to go to bars, so I’m thinking of getting him a fake drivers license, but I hope that doesn’t blow up in my face.

Okay, I gotta run! I’m late for flight school. I missed the last class where we learn how to land, so I really can’t miss another one. Talk to you later!"

MOB666's picture

you sure you need to learn how to land?

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

I'm more worried about being targeted by CAPIA Clingons. Klingons too.

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

"we are told that "they hate us for our freedoms" but that isnt true. democrats and republicans hate us for our freedoms. everyone else hates us becuase of our democrats and republicans"

Wish i could take credit for it, but it was said by someone much more clever than me, and truer words have never been spoken

mt paul's picture

comment removed by NSA

pending review by DHS....

Stalkedbyhackers01's picture

That's cool because pending review by the FBI as well. You and your cohorts stalking me since August and reposting anything I type on zerohedge are doing something illegal did you know that? Ya that insane dude ranting is me. Funny how those comments magically appear other places eh? I thought what I wrote on my computer was private? Hey guys did you know my identity has been hijacked?

Magooo's picture

It's too late --- they have loads of stuff on everyone gathered before we were aware of all of this.

Buck Johnson's picture

Your spot on, spot on.  He took the bait by saing he doesn't cover his tracks.  By not covering your tracks it makes it easier for them to catalog you and find out what you are doing.  The other anonimizers and/or trying to be private makes it harder and gives them redundant and/or wrong data and so they can't trust all the way what is being done with someone who is trying to be private and if that is the person or not.  As an example look at Tor who changes your ip address online while you go through the system.  They can get bit and pieces and even eventually work it out but that takes resources and they don't want to wasted money and time going after a person who is or isn't a terrorists and maybe just was looking at porn or surfing the net.  As I stated, there is alot of false data and redundant data in the system and the more they have the less certain they are about the process.  But if you don't do anything it makes it easier.

omniversling's picture

This morning whilst trying to post a comment on another ZH page (on a mac) I got a screen freeze and an error message that ZH server could not be found. When the site came back up the post had been deleted. Just saying, but read this yesterday about NSA interference data packets that raised my awareness of TIA. Recommended, and some great comments.

How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware

"A top-secret NSA presentation from 2012 reveals that the agency developed a man-in-the-middle capability called SECONDDATE to “influence real-time communications between client and server” and to “quietly redirect web-browsers” to NSA malware servers called FOXACID. In October, details about the FOXACID system were reported by the Guardian, which revealed its links to attacks against users of the Internet anonymity service Tor."

Bunga Bunga's picture

Linux user = extremist

CH1's picture

Of course - either you use Microsoft and their Trusted Computing Module, or you're a perp.

LetThemEatRand's picture

As so eloquently stated by Fernando, "it's not how you feel.  It's how you look."

swmnguy's picture

And you, my friend; you...well, you already know how you look.

The Alarmist's picture

vi = extremist

emacs = extremist


Real friends don't let friends do windows

motorollin's picture

nano only! emacs is for hacks. :)

Dave Thomas's picture

I ln -S ./nano ./pico since 1) I'm lame 2) It's wired into my muscle memory.

Stalkedbyhackers01's picture

Funny how that info was illegally obtained and reposted by hacking my computer though eh?

BorisTheBlade's picture

Everyone with a brain enough = terrorist.

CH1's picture

Everyone with a brain enough = terrorist.

Precisely. That or gives an actual shit about morality.

BLOTTO's picture

People capable of independent thinking = terrorist.


Edit: (LofP had it covered just below:)

Rusty Shorts's picture

As governments teeter on the brink of failure or collapse, or at least a loss of their position in undisputed global preeminence, they also become more oppressive and draconian in a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

In China there was a time when the intellectuals and learned had a long hair braid (1 cm wide) and the rest of the head bald.  When a new tyrant came along, he decided that he needed to crush all opposition ideas, and did not spare these thinkers - who were his biggest threats.  A few of their wisest, cut off this emblem and joined remote monasteries.

History rhymes.