23 November 2013: NSA TreasureMap explanation:
23 November 2013
NSA Goals for More Power
Referenced 5-page NSA SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016 paper:
Two NSA documents referenced in the report appear not to have been published:
"Treasure Map" and "Packaged Goods." If available please send pointers to
N.S.A. Report Outlined Goals for More Power
By JAMES RISEN and LAURA POITRAS
Published: November 22, 2013
WASHINGTON Officials at the National Security Agency, intent on
maintaining its dominance in intelligence collection, pledged last year to
push to expand its surveillance powers, according to a top-secret strategy
In a February 2012 paper laying out the four-year strategy for the N.S.A.s
signals intelligence operations, which include the agencys eavesdropping
and communications data collection around the world, agency officials set
an objective to aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy
framework mapped more fully to the information age.
Written as an agency mission statement with broad goals, the five-page document
said that existing American laws were not adequate to meet the needs of the
N.S.A. to conduct broad surveillance in what it cited as the golden
age of Sigint, or signals intelligence. The interpretation and
guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities
themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and
target environments, or the operational expectations levied on N.S.A.s
mission, the document concluded.
Using sweeping language, the paper also outlined some of the agencys
other ambitions. They included defeating the cybersecurity practices of
adversaries in order to acquire the data the agency needs from anyone,
anytime, anywhere. The agency also said it would try to decrypt or
bypass codes that keep communications secret by influencing the global
commercial encryption market through commercial relationships, human
spies and intelligence partners in other countries. It also talked of the
need to revolutionize analysis of its vast collections of data
to radically increase operational impact.
The strategy document, provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J.
Snowden, was written at a time when the agency was at the peak of its powers
and the scope of its surveillance operations was still secret. Since then,
Mr. Snowdens revelations have changed the political landscape.
Prompted by a public outcry over the N.S.A.s domestic operations, the
agencys critics in Congress have been pushing to limit, rather than
expand, its ability to routinely collect the phone and email records of millions
of Americans, while foreign leaders have protested reports of virtually unlimited
N.S.A. surveillance overseas, even in allied nations. Several inquiries are
underway in Washington; Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the N.S.A.s
longest-serving director, has announced plans to retire; and the White House
has offered proposals to disclose more information about the agencys
domestic surveillance activities.
The N.S.A. document, titled
Strategy 2012-2016, does not make clear what legal or policy changes
the agency might seek. The N.S.A.s powers are determined variously
by Congress, executive orders and the nations secret intelligence court,
and its operations are governed by layers of regulations. While asserting
that the agencys culture of compliance would not be
compromised, N.S.A. officials argued that they needed more flexibility, according
to the paper.
Senior intelligence officials, responding to questions about the document,
said that the N.S.A. believed that legal impediments limited its ability
to conduct surveillance of terrorism suspects inside the United States. Despite
an overhaul of national security law in 2008, the officials said, if a terrorism
suspect who is under surveillance overseas enters the United States, the
agency has to stop monitoring him until it obtains a warrant from the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court.
N.S.A.s Sigint strategy is designed to guide investments in future
capabilities and close gaps in current capabilities, the agency said
in a statement. In an ever-changing technology and telecommunications
environment, N.S.A. tries to get in front of issues to better fulfill the
foreign-intelligence requirements of the U.S. government.
Critics, including some congressional leaders, say that the role of N.S.A.
surveillance in thwarting terrorist attacks often cited by the agency
to justify expanded powers has been exaggerated. In response to the
controversy about its activities after Mr. Snowdens disclosures, agency
officials claimed that the N.S.A.s sweeping domestic surveillance programs
had helped in 54 terrorist-related activities. But under growing
scrutiny, congressional staff members and other critics say that the use
of such figures by defenders of the agency has drastically overstated the
value of the domestic surveillance programs in counterterrorism.
Agency leaders believe that the N.S.A. has never enjoyed such a target-rich
environment as it does now because of the global explosion of digital information
and they want to make certain that they can dominate the Sigint
battle space in the future, the document said. To be optimally
effective, the paper said, legal, policy and process authorities
must be as adaptive and dynamic as the technological and operational advances
we seek to exploit.
Intent on unlocking the secrets of adversaries, the paper underscores the
agencys long-term goal of being able to collect virtually everything
available in the digital world. To achieve that objective, the paper suggests
that the N.S.A. plans to gain greater access, in a variety of ways, to the
infrastructure of the worlds telecommunications networks.
Reports based on other documents previously leaked by Mr. Snowden showed
that the N.S.A. has infiltrated the cable links to Google and Yahoo data
centers around the world, leading to protests from company executives and
a growing backlash against the N.S.A. in Silicon Valley.
Yet the paper also shows how the agency believes it can influence and shape
trends in high-tech industries in other ways to suit its needs. One of the
agencys goals is to continue to invest in the industrial base
and drive the state of the art for high performance computing to maintain
pre-eminent cryptanalytic capability for the nation. The paper added
that the N.S.A. must seek to identify new access, collection and
exploitation methods by leveraging global business trends in data and
And it wants to find ways to combine all of its technical tools to enhance
its surveillance powers. The N.S.A. will seek to integrate its
capabilities to reach previously inaccessible targets in support of
exploitation, cyberdefense and cyberoperations, the paper stated.
The agency also intends to improve its access to encrypted communications
used by individuals, businesses and foreign governments, the strategy document
said. The N.S.A. has already had some success in defeating encryption, The
New York Times has reported, but the document makes it clear that countering
ubiquitous, strong, commercial network encryption is a top priority.
The agency plans to fight back against the rise of encryption through
relationships with companies that develop encryption tools and through espionage
operations. In other countries, the document said, the N.S.A. must also
counter indigenous cryptographic programs by targeting their industrial
bases with all available Sigint and Humint human intelligence,
The document also mentioned a goal of integrating the agencys eavesdropping
and data collection systems into a national network of sensors that interactively
sense, respond and alert one another at machine speed. Senior
intelligence officials said that the system of sensors is designed to protect
the computer networks of the Defense Department, and that the N.S.A. does
not use data collected from Americans for the system.
One of the agencys other four-year goals was to share bulk
data more broadly to allow for better analysis. While the paper does
not explain in detail how widely it would disseminate bulk data within the
intelligence community, the proposal raises questions about what safeguards
the N.S.A. plans to place on its domestic phone and email data collection
programs to protect Americans privacy.
N.S.A. officials have insisted that they have placed tight controls on those
programs. In an interview, the senior intelligence officials said that the
strategy paper was referring to the agencys desire to share foreign
data more broadly, not phone logs of Americans collected under the Patriot
Above all, the strategy paper suggests the N.S.A.s vast view of its
mission: nothing less than to dramatically increase mastery of the
Other N.S.A. documents offer hints of how the agency is trying to do just
that. One program, code-named Treasure Map, provides what a secret N.S.A.
PowerPoint presentation describes as a near real-time, interactive
map of the global Internet. According to the undated PowerPoint
presentation, disclosed by Mr. Snowden, Treasure Map gives the N.S.A. a
300,000 foot view of the Internet.
Relying on Internet routing data, commercial and Sigint information, Treasure
Map is a sophisticated tool, one that the PowerPoint presentation describes
as a massive Internet mapping, analysis and exploration engine.
It collects Wi-Fi network and geolocation data, and between 30 million and
50 million unique Internet provider addresses code that can reveal
the location and owner of a computer, mobile device or router are
represented each day on Treasure Map, according to the document. It boasts
that the program can map any device, anywhere, all the time.
The documents include addresses labeled as based in the U.S.,
and because so much Internet traffic flows through the United States, it
would be difficult to map much of the world without capturing such addresses.
But the intelligence officials said that Treasure Map maps only foreign and
Defense Department networks, and is limited by the amount of data available
to the agency. There are several billion I.P. addresses on the Internet,
the officials said, and Treasure Map cannot map them all. The program is
not used for surveillance, they said, but to understand computer networks.
The program takes advantage of the capabilities of other secret N.S.A. programs.
To support Treasure Map, for example, the document states that another program,
called Packaged Goods, tracks the traceroutes through which data
flows around the Internet. Through Packaged Goods, the N.S.A. has gained
access to 13 covered servers in unwitting data centers around the
globe, according to the PowerPoint. The document identifies a list
of countries where the data centers are located, including Germany, Poland,
Denmark, South Africa and Taiwan as well as Russia, China and Singapore.
Despite the documents reference to unwitting data centers,
government officials said that the agency does not hack into those centers.
Instead, the officials said, the intelligence community secretly uses front
companies to lease space on the servers.
Despite the N.S.A.s broad surveillance powers, the strategy paper shows
that N.S.A. officials still worry about the agencys ability to fend
off bureaucratic inertia while keeping pace with change.
To sustain current mission relevance, the document said, Signals
Intelligence Directorate, the N.S.A.s signals intelligence arm, must
undertake a profound and revolutionary shift from the mission approach which
has served us so well in the decades preceding the onset of the information
James Risen reported from Washington, and Laura Poitras from Berlin.
A version of this article appears in print on November 23, 2013, on page
A1 of the New York edition with the headline: N.S.A. Report Outlined Goals
For More Power.