Ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden shared thousands of classified documents about US surveillance programs with journalist Barton Gellman in 2013
One of those documents revealed that the NSA was tracking phone calls made by Americans inside the US
In an excerpt from his new book, Dark Mirror, Gellman lays out how the tool at the heart of the program works in unprecedented detail
The tool, Mainway, secretly scoured billions of phone records a day for years
It cultivated a database that was ‘preconfigured to map anyone’s life at the touch of a button’, Gellman writes
The program was scaled back significantly in the wake of the Snowden leak, but a more restrained version is still in effect today
Though the NSA insists that the database is only used to investigate terrorists, Gellman raises concerns about how easily it could be abused
US satellites that intercept communications have so far avoided the full weight of the media scrutiny that the Edward Snowden revelations have brought on other parts of the intelligence world. PAT NORRIS FRAeS* considers the ultra-secret world of spy satellites able to hoover up your mobile phone conversation.
On 22nd June 1960, less than three years after Sputnik-1 kicked-off the space age, the tiny GRAB spacecraft was launched by the US Department of Defense and became the first satellite designed to ‘observe’ the Earth on an operational basis. GRAB didn’t observe the Earth in the conventional sense (by taking pictures), instead it detected radio signals from below and relayed them to ground terminals thousands of miles away. GRAB provided the US with unprecedented information about the signals emitted by Soviet radars at a time when those two super-powers were Cold War adversaries and when information about activities inside the Soviet Union was almost impossible to obtain. The information collected by GRAB was sufficiently useful to justify the launch of more such satellites.