Photo of a slide explaining both programs
The public needs to know about the two NSA surveillance programs mentioned by Edward Snowden – PRISM and BLARNEY – because explanations of the programs by government spokespersons are misleading.
The government claims that they are only collecting metadata and the data is then nothing more than a collection of books on a shelf that no one looks at. They stay untouched unless a FISA court says otherwise. There is a little more to it than that, they say.
The NSA is obfuscating however when they explain what PRISM actually does. They describe a more innocuous program named BLARNEY, which collects metadata, when they are asked to explain PRISM
BLARNEY is the NSA’s phone surveillance program which works in tandem with PRISM. BLARNEY captures the metadata from communications and PRISM collects the content. They are two different means by which the government captures and collects data.
Blarney intercepts the information for PRISM. It works upstream of PRISM at another level – from fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past. The two programs work together but are separate programs.
When the government peeps want to explain what PRISM is, they describe the more innocuous BLARNEY and that throws people off. Edward Snowden mentioned both systems in his leaks.
When the programs interact, they are working downstream because the tech companies have already processed the data.
The government doublespeak-ers attempt to make PRISM sound innocuous by implying that it merely collects metadata when, in fact, that is what BLARNEY does and they work together with data already processed.
As we are reminded by policy mic, back in 2006, Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, became a whistleblower and his evidence forms the basis of a lawsuit filed against the NSA by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Klein said that AT&T knew the NSA was installing hardware to monitor, capture, and process American telecommunications. He also said that a fiber-optic splitter was installed in an office in San Francisco where all data grabbed is then sent to a separate spy room run by the NSA.
BLARNEY could be the program that Klein was talking about. It captures data sent via undersea cables.
The explanation is about as clear as mud because there is so little we know.
This all bears watching. There is apparently nothing the government can’t do and they have shown that they can’t be trusted to tell us the truth. It’s all about national security and it’s top secret.
In the meantime, Edward Snowden said, via Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, that he gave no information to either the Chinese or the Russians. The jury is still out on that.