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Web spying: Before PRISM there was TURBULENCE

Joby Warrick, in his book “The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA” published in May 2012, wrote , “Inside the headquarters of the secretive National Security Agency in suburban Washington is a computer search engine unlike any other in the world. Code-named Turbulence, it is a five-hundred-million-dollar-a-year network that continuously vacuums up terabytes of data from across the Internet and scours them for possible security threats.”

When you Google “Turbulence” you get a reference to this cyber search engine on Wikipedia under NSA:

Turbulence started circa 2005. It was developed in small, inexpensive ‘test’ pieces rather than one grand plan like Trailblazer. It also included offensive cyber-warfare capabilities, like injecting malware into remote computers. Congress criticized Turbulence in 2007 for having similar bureaucratic problems as Trailblazer. It was to be a realization of information processing at higher speeds in cyberspace.

Trailblazer Project ramped up circa 2000 under President Clinton. SAICBoeingCSCIBM, and Litton worked on it. Some NSA whistleblowers complained internally about major problems surrounding Trailblazer. This led to investigations by Congress and the NSA and DoD Inspectors General. The project was cancelled circa 2003-4; it was late, over budget, and didn’t do what it was supposed to do. The Baltimore Sun ran articles about this in 2006–07. The government then raided the whistleblower’s houses. One of them, Thomas Drake, was charged with 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) in 2010 in an unusual use of espionage law. He and his defenders claim that he was actually being persecuted for challenging the Trailblazer Project. In 2011, all 10 original charges against Drake were dropped.

NSA’s mission, as set forth in Executive Order 12333, is to collect information that constitutes “foreign intelligence or counterintelligence” while not “acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons”. NSA has declared that it relies on the FBI to collect information on foreign intelligence activities within the borders of the USA, while confining its own activities within the USA to the embassies and missions of foreign nations.

NSA’s domestic surveillance activities are limited by the requirements imposed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; however, these protections do not apply to non-U.S. persons located outside of U.S. borders, so the NSA’s foreign surveillance efforts are subject to far fewer limitations under U.S. law. The specific requirements for domestic surveillance operations are contained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which does not extend protection to non-U.S. citizens located outside of U.S. territory.

Many questions remain on who the NSA is targeting. Given the recent scandals in key federal departments including: the IRS, DOJ, NSA, CIA, EPA and HHS one wonders if US citizens in America are now the targets.

So before PRISM we had TURBULENCE. How prophetic.

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