NSA seeks 'groundbreaking' spying powers, new leak reveals

The US government's spying budget includes funds to invent new technologies "to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit Internet traffic," leaked documents show.

NSA chief General Keith Alexander takes prepared audience questions from Black Hat general manager Trey Ford at Black Hat 2013. The NSA's secret budget is part of the latest documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the Washington Post. Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Among the NSA's annual budget of $52.6 billion are requests to bankroll "groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities" that can beat cryptography and mine regular Internet traffic, new documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the Washington Post reveal.

The document in question, the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Justification -- referred to as the "Black Budget" -- states on page 4: "...we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit Internet traffic."

Because of its mention in the Black Budget, it's thought that this investment is different from In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency's independent venture capital investment firm.

The Washington Post is reporting that the budget reveals a massive surge in spying infrastructure, including high-tech surveillance. Signals Intelligence, known as SIGINT, has devoted $48.6 million just on projects to cope with "information overload," and nearly 35,000 people are employed under the rubric of the Consolidated Cryptologic Program. This group spans multiple agencies, including the NSA, and the surveillance and code-breaking divisions of the joint US military.

The document reveals that this kind of cross-agency cooperation is occurring while other agencies are crossing into each other's perceived territory. The CIA is planning to build tracking systems that "minimize or eliminate the need for physical access," while the NSA is working on "high-risk covert missions" to plant sensors close to targets so that suspects who avoid global communications networks no longer vex the agency.

Because the budget document was written in 2012, it reveals the NSA's plan this year to scrutinize its "high-risk, high-grain," contractors with needed computer skills, people such as Edward Snowden, following several high profile leaks by Wikileaks. The Post reports that Snowden was copying documents and preparing to leak them as the agency began one of its sweeps.

 

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