Understanding the NSA scandals

The NSA, the U.S. National Security Agency reportedly produced 70.3 million recordings from the phone data of French people between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013. Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was ” deeply shocked,” and added that ” initiatives are needed and they will be taken.”

What is the NSA?

The NSA is the National Security Agency. It is affiliated with the United States Department of Defense. Its main activity is computer intelligence and information security. The NSA was created on November 4, 1952, but in a secret manner. The existence of this organization was not recognized until 1957, so journalists nicknamed it the “No Such Agency”.

Yet the NSA plays a major role in the United States. To give an idea, its budget is estimated at 15 billion US dollars, which is more than the CIA (a known intelligence agency founded in 1947) whose budget was estimated at 10 billion US dollars in the same year.

Their mission is stated on their website:“The NSA/CSS core missions are to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information.


Why is the NSA accused of spying on the world?

Edward Snowden, a U.S. citizen employed by the CIA and NSA, decided to expose “the largest arbitrary surveillance program in human history,” thanks to thousands of secret documents he had downloaded.

Edward Snowden then contacted several journalists, taking care to have an encrypted conversation. The first documents were published: the Guardian revealed that the telephone operator Verizon gave the NSA information on the telephone data of millions of Americans.

The Prism program is even more extensive: the secret services of the United States, and in particular the NSA, have had access since December 2007 to the data of 9 major Internet companies, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple (which includes Skype, Gmail, Youtube, etc.).

Another program, Upstream, established in close collaboration with the British secret service Government Communications Headquarters, recovers all the data transiting through the Internet and submarine cables, which constitute 99% of communications traffic.

It is from these immense databases that the secret services of the United States can know everything about Internet users. They know, according to the revelations of Edward Snowden: all e-mails, all keywords typed, all websites visited.

The NSA scandal

All these programs are aimed at fighting terrorism. This would have made it possible to identify three hundred terrorist individuals since 2008, according to the presentation documents that praise the use of these programs.

But the secret services of the United States and the United Kingdom have also used them to spy on allied countries. Brazil would also have been a victim of this espionage.

Thus, according to Snowden’s documents, at the G20 in London in 2009, the computers of diplomats and heads of state were spied on by the GCHQ (British secret service). The NSA has placed bugs in the premises of the representation of the Union in Washington, and has also put under surveillance the delegation of the European Union at the UN, and the Council of the European Union in Brussels.

General Knowledge: the Secret