by Stephen Lendman
January 01, 2014
On December 29,
Spiegel headlined "Inside TAO - Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking
It's "considered to be (its) top secret
weapon." Its covert network "infiltrates computers around the world and
even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics
ordered by" whomever it targets.
More on this below.
remain the gift that keeps on giving. Doing so made him a world hero.
Washington calls exposing wrongdoing illegal. Lawlessness is official US
Since 1993, Britain's Channel 4 broadcast an alternative Christmas message.
It's an antidote to Queen Elizabeth's Royal Christmas Message.
In 1932, King George began them on radio. In 1957,
Queen Elizabeth delivered the first
televised broadcast. It's typical royal mumbo jumbo. Why Brits tune in
they'll have to explain.
Snowden's comments are important.
"are nothing compared to what we have
available today," he said.
"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think
about what this means for the privacy of the average person." Children
"born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all."
"They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to
themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought."
"And that's a problem because privacy matters. (It's) what allows us to
determine who we are and who we want to be."
Snowden wants ordinary people to decide how
governments monitor them.
"All I wanted was for the public to be able
to have a say in how they're governed," he explained.
He's doing it by revealing the extent of NSA
"The conversation occurring today will
determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that
surrounds us and the government that regulates it," he said.
"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and
remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel,
asking is always cheaper than spying."
"I already won," he said. "As soon as the journalists were able to work,
everything that I had been trying to do was validated."
"Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give
society a chance to determine if it should change itself."
"All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they
Not as long as NSA has its way. Not while
Congress and US administrations let it.
Previous articles discussed its Office of
Tailored Operations (TAO).
It's top secret. It has over 1,000 military and civilian hackers,
intelligence analysts, targeting specialists, computer hardware and software
designers, and electrical engineers. It identifies computer systems and
supporting telecommunications networks to attack. It successfully penetrated
Chinese computer and telecom systems. It's been doing it for over 15 years.
It does the same thing globally.
Most NSA employees and officials know little or nothing about TAO. Its
operations are extraordinarily sensitive. Only those needing to know
are kept informed.
Special security clearances are required to gain access to its top secret
work spaces. Armed guards keep others out. Entering requires a correct six
digit code. Retinal scanner checks are used.
TAO targets foreign computer systems. It
collects hard to get intelligence. It does it by hacking, cracking
passwords, compromising computer security systems, stealing hard drive data,
and copying all subsequent emails and text messages.
TAO personnel penetrate, steal, damage, destroy or otherwise compromise
targeted sites. It's perhaps the most important component of NSA's Signal
Intelligence (SIGINT) Directorate.
It lets NSA get information not otherwise available. It can do it without
Der Spiegel called TAO NSA's "top operative unit."
It's "something like a squad of plumbers,"
it said. They're "called in when normal access to a target is blocked."
They're "involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American
They range from counterintelligence to cyberwar
Snowden's documents revealed TAO sophistication. It exploits technical
weaknesses. It does so secretly, discreetly and efficiently. It gets the "ungettable."
According to a former unnamed TAO chief:
"It is not about the quantity produced but
the quality of intelligence that is important," she said. "(It's gotten)
some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen."
It "access(es) our very hardest targets. (It) needs to continue to grow,
and must lay the foundation for integrated Computer Network Operations."
It must "support Computer Network Attacks as an integrated part of
military operations. (It has to acquire) pervasive, persistent access on
the global network."
Its mandate is conducting aggressive attacks.
Through the middle of the last decade, it
accessed 258 targets. It did so in 89 countries globally. In 2010, it
conducted 279 operations.
It penetrated protected networks of targeted world leaders. It did so
against European telecommunications companies. It cracked Blackberry's
encrypted BES email servers. One document said doing so required "sustained
TAO operation(al)" effort.
In 1997, TAO was created. At the time, only 2% of the world's population had
Internet access. It was a year before Google was founded. Facebook, Twitter
and YouTube weren't around. Yahoo was a fledgling operation.
TAO personnel work at NSA's Fort Meade, MD headquarters. They're in San
Antonio, TX. They're in other locations. They're housed in their own wings.
They're separate from other NSA operations.
Their match Star Trek. They do it for real. They go where no one went
before. They do it round-the-clock. They do it globally. They find ways to
hack into global communications systems. They penetrate the most heavily
protected ones. They do what never before was possible. They do it secretly.
They do it without being detected.
TAO employs new kinds of people. They're much younger than other NSA
personnel. They're expert hackers.
"Their job is breaking into, manipulating,
and exploiting computer networks," said Der Spiegel.
They resemble geeks. They act like them.
NSA director Keith Alexander is involved
in recruiting. He attends major hacker conferences. Sometimes it's in formal
military attire. Other times, he wears jeans and t-shirts. It's to look and
act like the geeks he's recruiting. It works.
TAO has operations in,
Fort Gordon, GA
Buckley Air Force Base near Denver
Fort Meade, MD, San Antonio, TX
a liaison office near Frankfurt, Germany
It's the European Security Operations Center
It's at a US military compound in Griesheim.
It's a suburb of Darmstadt near Frankfort. It's secured by a tall wire
fence. It's topped with barbed wire. It's in relatively modest buildings.
They're surrounded by green space. It's for added security. It's one of
Hesse state's best protected sites.
NSA's European Cryptologic Center (ECC) is
A 2011 NSA report calls it the,
"largest analysis and productivity (site) in
Information obtained ends up in Obama's daily
briefings. He gets them on average twice weekly.
NSA considers Germany a prime target. Espionage is prioritized. So is German
foreign policy. Weeks after NSA spying on Angela Merkel was revealed,
Berlin still awaits answers on what it's up to in Germany.
Documents Der Spiegel saw revealed intense NSA
spying. Its personnel consider German intelligence gotten a "success story."
Tons of information were collected.
Former NSA director Michael Hayden told
"(T)he damage for the German-American
relationship is huge."
Post-9/11, he tried working cooperatively with
Germany's BND intelligence, he said.
"I tried to avoid acting as an occupier," he
claimed. "We extended our cooperation."
It's now jeopardized. He admits NSA espionage.
"We steal secrets," he said. "We're number
one in (doing) it."
NSA isn't malicious, he claims.
"We steal stuff to make you safe, not to
make you rich."
NSA steals everything it gets its hands on. It
compromises public safety. It does so globally.
Former NSA employee/whistleblower Thomas Drake said,
11 was the trigger that (made) Germany a target of high priority."
Powerful tools are used to do whatever NSA
wishes. To infiltrate wherever it wants to go. To steal as much as it can
about virtually everything. NSA director Alexander says "get it all."
Der Spiegel called its Texas operations "uniquely impressive." The Texas
Cryptologic Center employs less than 60 TAO specialists. By 2015, plans are
to increase staff to about 270. Another 85 specialists work in the
Requirements & Targeting division. In 2008, they numbered 13.
Software developers are expected to increase from three in 2008 to 38 in
San Antonio-based operations target,
Middle East Countries
According to Washington's planned intelligence
operations, around 85,000 computers worldwide were expected to be
infiltrated by year end 2013.
Most involve TAO operations. Cyber criminals run
them. They hack into computer systems. They send emails disguised as spam.
They contain links directing users to virus-infected web sites. They implant
NSA malware this way. They do it without targeted subjects knowing.
A major TAO goal is,
"subvert(ing) endpoint devices." They
include "servers, workstations, firewalls, routers, handsets, phone
SCADA systems, etc."
According to Der Spiegel:
"SCADAs are industrial control systems used
in factories, as well as in power plants…(The) most well-known and
notorious use of this type of attack was the development of
In spring 2010, Iranian intelligence discovered
its malware contamination.
It infected its
Bushehr nuclear facility. At the time,
operations were halted indefinitely. Israel was responsible. So was
Washington. Had the facility gone online infected, Iran's entire electrical
power grid could have been shut down. One of NSA's "most productive
operations" is its direct "interdiction."
Goods are rerouted from suppliers to secret TAO
According to Der Spiegel:
TAO personnel "carefully open... package(s)
in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware
components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence
"All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote
Operations are conducted globally.
NSA targets virtually everyone. Its ultimate goal is leaving no one behind.
Most important are "entire networks and network providers," said Der
Spiegel. Fiber optic cables handling global Internet traffic "along the
world's ocean floors" are prime targets.
NSA responded to Der Spiegel's query.
It lied saying TAO,
"is a unique national asset that is on the
front lines of enabling NSA to defend the nation and its allies."
Domestic spying has nothing to do with
It's for control. It's global espionage
for economic advantage. It's to be one up on foreign competitors. It's for
information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations.
It's lawlessly obtained. It's unconstitutional. It doesn't matter.
NSA is one of many US rogue operations. America's
15 other intelligence agencies operate the
...are worst of all.
They function lawlessly. They legitimize the
illegitimate. They threaten humanity in the process. Imagine what they plan
this year. Expect worse conditions perhaps than earlier. Rogue states
operate that way.
America is by far the worst...