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[liberationtech] PRISM: NSA/FBI Internet data mining project

Nadim Kobeissi nadim at
Sun Jun 9 10:20:42 PDT 2013

A new slide has just been leaked from the PRISM powerpoint. It's very interesting, check it out:


On 2013-06-07, at 4:01 PM, Kyle Maxwell <kylem at> wrote:

> FWIW, Google has issued a similar blanket (and kinda funny) denial.
> On Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 2:20 PM, Andy Isaacson <adi at> wrote:
>> Apologies for replying out of thread and the wide CC list.
>> On Fri, Jun 07, 2013 at 06:41:32PM +0200, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>>> ----- Forwarded message from Matthew Petach <mpetach at> -----
>>> Date: Fri, 7 Jun 2013 09:32:53 -0700
>>> From: Matthew Petach <mpetach at>
>>> Cc: NANOG <nanog at>
>>> Subject: Re: PRISM: NSA/FBI Internet data mining project
>>> Speaking just for myself, and if you quote me on this
>>> as speaking on anyone else's behalf, you're a complete
>>> fool, if the government was able to build infrastructure
>>> that could listen to all the traffic from a major provider
>>> for a fraction of what it costs them to handle that traffic
>>> in the first place, I'd be truly amazed--and I'd probably
>>> wonder why the company didn't outsource their infrastruture
>>> to the government, if they can build and run it so much
>>> more cheaply than the commercial providers.  ;P
>>> 7 companies were listed; if we assume the
>>> burden was split roughly evenly between them, that's
>>> 20M/7, about $2.85M per company per year to tap in,
>>> or about $238,000/month per company listed, to
>>> supposedly snoop on hundreds of gigs per second
>>> of data.  Two ways to handle it: tap in, and funnel
>>> copies of all traffic back to distant monitoring posts,
>>> or have local servers digesting and filtering, just
>>> extracting the few nuggets they want, and sending
>>> just those back.
>> That's not what PRISM is claimed to do, in the WaPo/Gu slide deck.  The
>> deck claims that PRISM provides a way for an analyst at NSA to request
>> access to a specific target (gmail account, Skype account, Y! messenger,
>> etc) and get a dump of data in that account, plus realtime access to the
>> activity on the account.  The volume is quoted to be on the order of
>> 10k-100k of requests annually.  The implication is that data production
>> is nearly immediate (measured in minutes or hours at most), not enough
>> time for a rubber-stamp FISA warrant, implying a fully automated system.
>> At these volumes we're talking one, or a few, boxes at each provider;
>> plus the necessary backdoors in the provider's storage systems (easy,
>> since the provider already has those backdoors in place for their own
>> maintenance/legal/abuse systems); and trusted personnel on staff at the
>> providers to build and maintain the systems.  Add a VPN link back to
>> Fort Meade and you're done.
>> That's obviously a much easier system (compared to your 200 GBps
>> sniffer) to build at the $2M/yr budget, and given that $2M is just the
>> government's part -- the company engineering time to do it is accounted
>> separately -- it seems like a reasonable ballpark for an efficient
>> government project.  (There are plenty such, and the existence of
>> inefficient government projects doesn't change that fact.)
>> It's even possible that executive/legal at the providers actually aren't
>> aware that their systems are compromised in this manner.  NatSec claims
>> will open many doors, especially with alumni of the DoD who have
>> reentered the civilian workforce:
>> -andy
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