We tend to think of the National Security Agency as an omniscient entity lurking silently in the shadows. And it is. But, in conjunction with the release of his new book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald has published 194 pages of top-secret NSA documents obtained by former U.S. cyberspy Edward Snowden. And–apropos of what we’ve gleaned so far–the images inside scream “Windows 98” more than “sophisticated global espionage.”
Most of it is a medley of hastily assembled PowerPoint slides chopped up with Clipart and WordArt banners. It’s as if your parents were designing you a birthday card on their ancient machines in the living room. There are interesting revelations, though: On page 149 is a photograph of one of the facilities the NSA uses to intercept routers before repackaging them and sending them to store shelves to be sold. (Hat tip to Ars Technica.) It looks–perhaps unsettlingly–like a normal IT room.
But take this slide on page 103, which documents some of the NSA’s critical telecommunications partnerships. BLARNEY, for example, is an upstream data collection program introduced in the 1978 that was expanded after 9/11. Information hoovered up is then shared with the CIA, the Department of Justice, and the FBI. The program is dignified with a little green hat.