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Glenn Greenwald: The NSA Can 'Literally Watch Every Keystroke You Make'

'TAO is basically a unit that is designed to cultivate the most advanced hacking operations and skills of any unit, any entity on the Earth.'

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AG: Talk about White Tamale, Glenn Greenwald.

GG: Well, I mean, I think that — you know, a lot of the — one of the good things about this particular story is that it was — the lead writer on it was Jake Appelbaum, who is, you know, one of the world’s leading experts when it comes to computer [programming]. He’s the developer of the Tor Project, one of the developers of the Tor Project, which is designed to safeguard anonymity on online browsing, to make it impossible for hostile states to be able to trace where people are. And one of the things he did was take some very technical documents and translated it into a way that the public should be able to understand it.

And so, several of these programs, including White Tamale, are about insertions of malware into various forms of electronics. And he actually gave a speech this morning explaining some of this. And what he essentially said is that, with these programs, the government is able to literally control human beings through control of their machines. We hear all of this — these stories about the NSA being very targeted in the kinds of communications that they want to collect and store, and the types of people whom they’re targeting that are very specific and discriminating, and yet what several of these programs are, that are revealed by Der Spiegel, are highly sophisticated means for collecting everything that a user does, and it implicates the people with whom they’re communicating and a whole variety of other types of online activity in which they’re engaging.

AG: I want to turn to computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, who you were just talking about, who co-wrote the piece for Der Spiegel, who was speaking, as you just said, in Hamburg, Germany, at this conference, the Chaos Communication Congress.

Jacob Appelbaum: Basically, their goal is to have total surveillance of everything that they are interested in. So there really is no boundary to what they want to do. There is only sometimes a boundary of what they are funded to be able to do and to the amount of things they’re able to do at scale. They seem to just do those things without thinking too much about it. And there are specific tactical things where they have to target a group or an individual, and those things seem limited either by budget or simply by their time.

And as we have released today on Der Spiegel's website, which it should be live — I just checked; it should be live for everyone here — we actually show a whole bunch of details about their budgets, as well as the individuals involved with the NSA and the Tailored Access Operations group, in terms of numbers. So it should give you a rough idea, showing that there was a small period of time in which the Internet was really free and we did not have people from the U.S. military that were watching over it and exploiting everyone on it, and now we see, every year, that the number of people who are hired to break into people's computers as part of grand operations, those people are growing day by day.

AG: Also speaking in Hamburg, Germany, at the Chaos Communication Congress this weekend was WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Edward Snowden to Russia and spent four months with him. She spoke after receiving a long standing ovation.

Sarah Harrison: My name is Sarah Harrison, as you all appear to know. I’m a journalist working for WikiLeaks. This year I was part, as Jacob just said, of the WikiLeaks team that saved Snowden from a life in prison. This act in my job has meant that our legal advice is that I do not return to my home, the United Kingdom, due to the ongoing terrorism investigation there in relation to the movement of Edward Snowden documents. The U.K. government has chosen to define disclosing classified documents with an intent to influence government behavior as terrorism.