A list of known NSA spying techniques

Is the NSA listening to your phone calls?
Is the NSA listening to your phone calls?
Is the NSA listening to your phone calls?  Yes.

The scope of the National Security Agency’s spying abilities has increased dramatically in the last few of years. Rumors have been circulated for years about the agencies clandestine abilities.  Many of those rumors have been confirmed, thanks to leaked documents and whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

Below is a list of powers and tricks used by the NSA.  Many of these abilities are shared by the NSA’s spying counterpart in the United Kingdom, known as the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ).  Interestingly, most of the reporting about the USA’s Orwellian playbook comes from foreign publications.

Police State USA will attempt to update this list as evidence of the police state continues to unfold.

* * * * *

  • The NSA can access personal email, chat, and web browsing history. (Source)
  • The NSA tracks the numbers of both parties on phone calls, their locations, as well as time and duration of the call. (Source)
  • The NSA can monitor text messages. (Source)
  • The NSA can monitor the data in smartphone applications. (Source)
  • The NSA can crack cellphone encryption codes. (Source)
  • The NSA can identify individuals’ friends, companions, and social networks. (Source)
  • The NSA monitors financial transactions. (Source)
  • The NSA monitors credit card purchases. (Source)
  • The NSA intercepts troves of personal webcam video from innocent people. (Source)
  • The NSA is working to crack all types of sophisticated computer encryption. (Source)
  • The NSA monitors communications between online gamers. (Source)
  • The NSA can set up fake Internet cafes to spy on unsuspecting users. (Source)
  • The NSA can remotely access computers by setting up a fake wireless connection. (Source)
  • The NSA can use radio waves to hack computers that aren’t connected to the internet. (Source)
  • The NSA can set up fake social networking profiles on LinkedIn for spying purposes. (Source)
  • The NSA undermines secure networks [Tor] by diverting users to non-secure channels. (Source)
  • The NSA can intercept phone calls by setting up fake mobile telephony base stations. (Source)
  • The NSA can install a fake SIM card in a cell phone to secretly control it. (Source)
  • The NSA can physically intercept packages, open them, and alter electronic devices. (Source)
  • The NSA makes a USB thumb drive that provides a wireless backdoor into the host computer. (Source)
  • The NSA can set up stations on rooftops to monitor local cell phone communications. (Source)
  • The NSA spies on text messages in China and can hack Chinese cell phones. (Source)
  • The NSA spies on foreign leaders’ cell phones. (Source)
  • The NSA intercepts meeting notes from foreign dignitaries. (Source)
  • The NSA has hacked into the United Nations’ video conferencing system. (Source)
  • The NSA can spy on ambassadors within embassies. (Source)
  • The NSA can track hotel reservations to monitor lodging arrangements. (Source)
  • The NSA can track communications within media organizations. (Source)
  • The NSA can tap transoceanic fiber-optic cables. (Source)
  • The NSA can intercept communications between aircraft and airports. (Source)

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After digesting this list, consider that these powers go beyond some of the wildest nightmares of NSA critics from a generation ago.  In 1975, U.S. Senator Frank Church made some chilling statements in regards to the NSA’s domestic spying abilities.  Four decades later, things are exponentially more alarming.

Sen. Frank Church
Sen. Frank Church

“If a dictator ever took over, the NSA could enable it to impose a total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”

“That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

“I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge,” Senator Church said. “I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

— U.S. Senator Frank Church, 1975


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