The National Security Agency: A Global Superpower
By Wayne Madsen
June 14, 2013
Recent revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency is conducting massive meta-data vacuuming of the phone calls and Internet transactions of tens of millions of Americans and, perhaps, billions of people around the world, with little or no effective oversight by President Obama, the U.S. Congress, or the federal court system means that the intelligence agency has become, in its own right, a global superpower.
NSA acts like a virtual «state within a state». The director of NSA, a four-star flag officer, also wears the hat of Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, the chief cyber-warfare echelon within the Department of Defense. Just as any nation-state, NSA also has alliances with similar signals intelligence and cyber-warfare agencies around the world, including Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Australia’s Defense Signals Directorate (DSD), Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), and the Government Communications Security Board (GCSB) of New Zealand. These English-speaking partners are known as the «Five Eyes» countries and the signals intelligence alliance began after World War II and grew in scope during the Cold War.
NSA also has «third party» intelligence sharing agreements with a number of other signals intelligence agencies, but these smaller agencies are like NSA;’s very own colonial territories. Third party signals intelligence agencies of countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, and Thailand are expected to feed their intelligence «take» into the massive computer databases NSA maintains at its headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, but these Third Party entities receive very little intelligence in return. In fact, the Five Eyes «Second party» partners of NSA receive relatively little intelligence from NSA in exchange for the massive amounts of intercepted communications they make available to NSA. Even more secretive are NSA’s «Fourth Party» partners, including neutral Sweden, Finland, Austria, and Switzerland and, in what may pose a problem for Snowden, last reportedly in Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China has been a «Fourth Party» partner of NSA since the early 1980s. NSA maintained two eavesdropping stations in western China directed against the nuclear testing facilities of the Soviet Union and then Russia.
It has been a common practice for NSA and its international partners to keep secret the activities of the NSA from even prime ministers. New Zealand Labor Party Prime Minister David Lange, who served in office from 1984 to 1989, stated that he and other ministers «were told so little « about the activities of NSA and GCSB and that this raised the question as to whom those concerned with international electronic surveillance saw themselves ultimately responsible. Later found in Lange’s archived papers was a 31-page TOP SECRET UMBRA HANDLE VIA COMINT CHANNELS ONLY GCSB report on New Zealand’s communications intercepts on behalf of NSA of targets in the South Pacific and Antarctica.