In addition to the cell phone metadata seizures (not just Verizon but the other major cell companies too) and the PRISM program, it appears that a third program was also revealed in the original documents leaked by Edward Snowden, codenamed Blarney.
Much of the initial coverage of last week’s leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA) online snooping focused on a content gathering program called PRISM. But buried in the Washington Post’s original coverage were a few tantalizing details about another program code-named BLARNEY that bears a striking resemblance to the one alleged in a prominent court case over the existence of a dragnet online surveillance program.
The details of the BLARNEY program revealed so far appear to closely match the testimony and documents of former AT&T employee and whistleblower Mark Klein. Klein worked at AT&T for twenty-two years, retiring in 2004. During that time, he has testified he witnessed the installation of a fiber-optic splitting device in the San Francisco office where he worked, with a copy of all data being diverted to a room controlled by the NSA. In that room was “powerful computer equipment connecting to separate networks” and with the capability to “analyze communications at high speed.” As part of his testimony, he also provided AT&T documents that included diagrams of the splitter technology used.
In a conversation with ThinkProgress, Cindy Cohn, Legal Director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which is litigating the Jewel v. NSA case, agreed BLARNEY “appears to be what we’ve been saying, and what Mark Klein’s evidence shows.”
According the Washington Post, BLARNEY gathers up metadata from choke points along the backbone of the Internet as part of “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.” A slide later revealed by The Guardian lists the program as an upstream option for data collection, which relies on sucking up information “on fiber cables and infrastructure as it flows past.”
I interviewed Mark Klein after his book, Wiring Up The Big Brother Machine…And Fighting It, came out. That’s a book you really should all read.