News / USA

'PRISM' Critical to US Internet Surveillance

A photo made June 6, 2013 in Washington shows a copy of the  U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the National Security Administration (NSA) information on all landline and mobile teleph
A photo made June 6, 2013 in Washington shows a copy of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the National Security Administration (NSA) information on all landline and mobile teleph
VOA News
News accounts and officials said U.S. intelligence agencies have been peering into the servers used by nine major Internet companies and tracking millions of phone calls. Among them are Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype and Apple. All of the tech companies have denied any affiliation with PRISM.

They have also been tracking the source and destination of millions of phone calls, though apparently not listening to the conversations.

As all of this information zooms around the Internet on fiber optic cables, officials are using a program called "PRISM" to sort through and analyze data. Officials said they are searching for links to known or suspected terrorists, and seeking patterns that might reveal something about planned attacks.

The Internet companies deny they are voluntarily participating in any government data collection, and say they only give the government what is required by law.

The computer analysis is possible because Internet communications by e-mail, chat, video or file transfer are all converted into a stream of ones and zeros and broken into little packets.

Each of the packets contains the unique computer addresses of the sender and receiver, and the sequential number, so that the message can be reassembled at the destination in the correct order.

The majority of Internet communications actually flows through the United States, because computers do not necessarily use the shortest route between them, but the easiest and cheapest one.

For instance, the optical cables between Europe and North America can transfer many more packets than cables between Europe and Latin America, which makes it easier to move this traffic. It also makes it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor these communications.

According to an article in The Guardian, U.S. phone communications giant Verizon was ordered to provide the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) 'metadata' on all calls going through its network within the United States and with other countries. The collected 'metadata' does not contain actual conversations, but can still be useful to investigators.

'Targeted data mining'

Metadata contains phone numbers, area codes, GPS data, and time and duration of calls. It may also identify phone models and other technical information.

Once in the possession of the NSA, all collected data can be stored in data warehouses - huge memory banks - where it can be analyzed and cross-referenced by sophisticated software which can decipher usage patterns.

The professional term is 'targeted data mining.'  However, there is no evidence that collecting and analyzing it are effective tools. 

In an interview with VOA, Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the NSA is collecting much more data than it needs.

She said if the government wants to know who the suspected or known terrorist is communicating with, it can do that by getting the telephone records of the individuals it wants to investigate.

Without confirming the story, a senior Obama administration official defended the practice as part of the provisions of the Patriot Act, the law passed by Congress after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid