Snowden Files: NSA Using Agents to Physically Compromise Networks in China, Germany, South Korea

Many networks, especially highly classified government ones, are virtually impenetrable without an actual human going to the source Mission: Impossible-style and infiltrating the servers in some way. Newly-revealed documents released by Edward Snowden shows that the NSA is doing just that, and not only with ostensible 'enemies' like China, but dear friends, like Germany and South Korea.

The Intercept shares the details from these documents:

The documents...indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.

The program, which goes by the name Sentry Eagle, has basically carte blanche when it comes to spying and accessing government and business networks. Even those companies that comply (or are compelled to work) with the NSA's data gathering are in the dark. The depth and breadth of the access is staggering:

Previous disclosures about the NSA’s corporate partnerships have focused largely on U.S. companies providing the agency with vast amounts of customer data, including phone records and email traffic. But documents published today by The Intercept suggest that even as the agency uses secret operatives to penetrate them, companies have also cooperated more broadly to undermine the physical infrastructure of the internet than has been previously confirmed.

And what does the agency have to say for itself? Their answer does little to assuage fears of privacy violations, but certainly says a lot about their hubris:

The NSA refused to comment beyond a statement saying, “It should come as no surprise that NSA conducts targeted operations to counter increasingly agile adversaries.” The agency cited Presidential Policy Directive 28, which it claimed “requires signals intelligence policies and practices to take into account the globalization of trade, investment and information flows, and the commitment to an open, interoperable, and secure global Internet.” The NSA, the statement concluded, “values these principles and honors them in the performance of its mission.”

Have to give 'em credit – their doublespeak is grade A.

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