Snowden Leak Reveals NSA Traffic Shaping Tech That Diverts US Internet Routing For Spying
Internet traffic does not travel along the shortest route, but instead favors the fastest, least congested, or least expensive course. Data from various countries is backed up in data centers around the world. Sharon Goldberg of the Century Foundation noted, “An email sent from San Jose to New York may be routed through Internet devices located in Frankfurt, or be backed up on computers located in Ireland.” The NSA could potentially reroute Internet communications to gather information.
A NSA document from 2007 leaked by Edward Snowden, used Yemen as an example for “traffic shaping”. Yemen is often regarded as a gathering place for extremist activity. There are few ways for the NSA to inconspicuously monitor the Internet traffic within the country itself. The agency, however, is able to reroute the communications through undersea cables that pass through “friendlier territory”.
The NSA is responsible for monitoring and processing data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. American citizens are generally protected by the 4th Amendment and the rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court.
E.O.12333 is only under the watch of the executive and is not subject to the review of the legislative or judicial branches. Many claim that this law is used when other surveillance laws do not reach far enough for the intelligence agencies. It also implies that information collected about Americans through overseas communication could technically be legal.
It is important to note that this study was largely speculation. An NSA spokesperson remarked, “We do not comment on speculation about foreign intelligence activities; however, as we have said before, the National Security Agency does not undertake any foreign intelligence activity that would circumvent US laws or privacy protections.”