In order to install malware on the computers of various supposedly hard to reach targets, the National Security Agency (NSA) pretends to be Facebook, giving them instant access to the computers, webcams, microphones, and files of those fooled by the ruse.
This is just one of the several revelations in the latest leak by Edward Snowden to be made public by Glenn Greenwald.
In his new outlet, The Intercept, Greenwald and his colleague Ryan Gallagher also describe how documents obtained by the former NSA subcontractor reveal the NSA’s plan to “infect millions of computers with malware.”
The pair describe the outline of the plot:
The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.
The covert infrastructure that supports the hacking efforts operates from the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, and from eavesdropping bases in the United Kingdom and Japan. GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, appears to have played an integral role in helping to develop the implants tactic.
Beyond masquerading as a Facebook server, the intelligence agency would send out spam e-mail “laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam.”
Although originally purportedly developed to target specific individuals the NSA identified as worthy of electronic surveillance, Greenwald reports that the information he and Gallagher reviewed reveals that leadership of the agency worked feverishly to reduce the amount of human participation in the program. The reason for the haste?
According to the NSA’s own report on the system, codenamed “Turbine,” it was rapidly automated in order to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.”
In other words, to allow the spooks to more quickly and easily bypass the constitutional restrictions on such surveillance tactics. The Fourth Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Operation Turbine, then, is a direct violation of these protections, especially that mandating that a warrant “particularly describe” the target of the search.
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