A string of U.S. and international defense contractors helped in developing the now infamous ‘PRISM’ and ‘Boundless Informant’ systems that spy’s on American and international internet and telephone traffic.
Defenseworld.net took a close look at the contractors which supplied equipment and expertise to the U.S. National Security Administration (NSA) to help develop the all-pervasive spying technology.
Among the NSA’s top contractors are Booz Allen Hamilton thanks to its wide range of intelligence and surveillance expertise. Another top contractor heavily involved with the NSA is SAIC. Of its 42,000 employees, more than 20,000 hold U.S. government security clearances, making it one of the largest private intelligence services in the world, according to U.S. media reports.
“SAIC provides a full suite of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and cybersecurity solutions across a broad spectrum of national security programs,” it says on its website.
Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and, CACI International act as the NSA’s SIGINT analysis team making them integral to ISR projects. “SIGINT involves collecting foreign intelligence from communications and information systems and providing it to customers across the U.S. government, such as senior civilian and military officials,” according to the NSA website.
“NSA/CSS collects SIGINT from various sources, including foreign communications, radar and other electronic systems.” Most recently, BAE Systems announced that its experts will provide architecture, installation and administration for a complex networking environment that supports multiple network enclaves and high-speed datacenter access.
“BAE Systems’ Intelligence & Security manages big data, informs big decisions, and supports big missions. BAE Systems delivers a broad range of services including IT, cybersecurity and intelligence analysis to enable the U.S. military and government to recognize, manage and defeat threats,” according to a company statement.
Northrop Grumman, CACI International and Raytheon all boast an impressive array of ISR capabilities. Northrop Grumman has recently bagged several IT contracts from the NSA including a Cloud-Based Cyber Security Contract in 2012 to develop, integrate and sustain cloud-based information repositories.
In 2007, the company along with Computer Sciences Corporation was awarded Project Groundbreaker, a $5 billion contract to rebuild and operate the NSA’s “nonmission-critical” internal telephone and computer networking systems.
In managing the project for the NSA, CSC and Logicon created the “Eagle Alliance” consortium that drew in practically every major company involved in defense and intelligence outsourcing. Subcontractors included General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Titan Corp. (now L-3 Communications Inc.), CACI International, TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman), Mantech, Lockheed Martin, and Verizon (one of the companies that allegedly granted the NSA access to its consumer database under the Terrorist Surveillance Program), as well as Dell Computers, Hewlett-Packard, and Nortel Networks.
Earlier last year, Northrop Grumman and DRS Technologies won a $67 million NATO contract for cybersecurity and computer management services. Northrop said the team will implement a computer incident response capability for 50 NATO websites in 28 countries from cyber threats and vulnerabilities.
The same year, it was revealed that the NSA had a Raytheon ‘semi-secret’ technology to protect the nation's power grid called “Perfect Citizen." Since a crippling cyber attack in 2010, a 491 million contract was awarded to Raytheon to develop its overall mission.
Virtually all other details about the program are secret, including any information on whether the technology will allow any kind of domestic data collection on citizens. NSA vigorously denies that it will. "Perfect Citizen" would be able to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants. It would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack.
Meanwhile, NATO earlier last month announced plans to set up rapid reaction teams to fight the number of growing cyber-attacks on their military alliances. "In the progress report we have adopted today, we agreed to establish rapid reaction teams that can help protect NATO's own systems," alliance head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. This "cyber-defence capability should be fully operational by the autumn," Rasmussen told a press conference. "This is a first phase. A second phase would be to look into how the alliance can respond to requests from Allies who come under cyber-attack," he said.
Operational since 2007, the program codenamed PRISM was intended to monitor foreign communications that take place on US servers. It allowed the NSA to listen in on Skype conversations as long as one person was using a conventional phone. Edward Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that the NSA is monitoring Google products such as Gmail, voice and video chat, file transfers, photos, and a live surveillance of your search terms.
Users of social media and cloud services (such as iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox) are also being monitored, according to the Washington Post. About one in seven intelligence reports contain data collected by PRISM, according to the leaked documents. PRISM monitors the internet traffic of foreigners, but sweeps up American communicators in the process while the Boundless Information program analyzes and is fed in part by metadata on calls routed through Verizon, and other telecommunications carriers as well.
The telecommunications data mining appears to be both vast and indiscriminate but only collects so-called metadata; that is, data on which phone numbers called which other numbers, how long the calls lasted, the locations where calls were made and received and the like. No conversations have been recorded, so what was said is forever beyond the government’s reach, according to reports.
PRISM is a finer intelligence gathering program but far more invasive. It can confine not just metadata but the content of communications transmitted via the web, including messages sent and retrieved, uploaded videos et al.
“NSA’s systems environment is a haven for computer scientists, with vast networks able to manipulate and analyze huge volumes of data at mind-boggling speeds,” the agency says on its website.
The NSA and the the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency, had hacked Chinese mobile-phone companies to collect millions of text messages and computers in China and Hong Kong for over a four-year period, according to Snowden’s documents.
U.S officials have confirmed they do not know how many documents Snowden took but the enormity of the implication is staggering. China has come out in support of Snowden and even aided him in fleeing from Hong Kong to Moscow saying it will says it will "absolutely not accept" U.S. charges. Snowden’s passport has been revoked and charged with theft of government property, indicted by the United States for stealing and leaking classified documents.