August 20, 2016

Is the Shadow Brokers leak the latest in a series?

(Updated: August 24, 2016)

Earlier this week, a group or an individual called the Shadow Brokers published a large set of files containing the computer code for hacking tools. They were said to be from the Equation Group, which is considered part of the NSA's hacking division TAO.

The leak got quite some media attention, but so far it was not related to some earlier leaks of highly sensitive NSA documents. These show interesting similarities with the Shadow Brokers files, which were also not attributed to Edward Snowden, but seem to come from an unknown second source.



Screenshot of some computer code with instructions
from the Shadow Brokers archive
(click to enlarge)


The Shadow Brokers files

Since August 13, Shadow Brokers posted a manifesto and two large encrypted files on Pastebin, on GitHub, on Tumblr and on DropBox (all of them closed or deleted meanwhile).

One of the encrypted files could be decrypted into a 301 MB archive containing a large number of computer codes for server side utility scripts and exploits for a variety of targets like firewalls from Cisco, Juniper, Fortinet and TOPSEC. The files also include different versions of several implants and instructions on how to use them, so they're not just the malware that could have been found on the internet, but also files that were only used internally.

A full and detailed list of the exploits in this archive can be found here.

Security experts as well as former NSA employees considered the files to be authentic, and earlier today the website The Intercept came with some unpublished Snowden documents that confirm the Shadow Brokers files are real.

Besides the accessible archive, Shadow Brokers also posted a file that is still encrypted, and for which the key would only be provided to the highest bidder in an auction. Would the auction raise 1 million bitcoins (more than 500 million US dollars), then Shadow Brokers said they would release more files to the public. This auction however is likely just meant to attract attention.



Screenshot of a file tree from the Shadow Brokers archive
(click to enlarge)


From the Snowden documents?

According to security experts Bruce Schneier and Nicholas Weaver the new files aren't from the Snowden trove. Like most people, they apparently assume that Snowden took mostly powerpoint presentations and internal reports and newsletters, but that's not the whole picture. The Snowden documents also include various kinds of operational data, but this rarely became public.

Most notable was a large set of raw communications content collected by NSA under FISA and FAA authority, which also included incidentally collected data from Americans, as was reported by The Washington Post on July 5, 2014. The Snowden documents also include technical reports, which are often very difficult to understand and rarely provide a newsworthy story on their own.

Someone reminded me as well that in January 2015, the German magazine Der Spiegel published the full computer code of a keylogger implant codenamed QWERTY, which was a component of the NSA's WARRIORPRIDE malware framework. So with the Snowden trove containing this one piece of computer code, there's no reason why it should not contain more.

Contradicting the option that the Shadow Brokers files could come from Snowden is the fact that some of the files have timestamps as late as October 18, 2013, which is five months after Snowden left NSA. Timestamps are easy to modify, but if they are authentic, then these files have to be from another source.


A second source?

This brings us to a number of leaks that occured in recent years and which were also not attributed to Snowden. These leaks involved highly sensitive NSA files and were often more embarrassing than stuff from the Snowden documents - for example the catalog of hacking tools and techniques, the fact that chancellor Merkel was targeted and intelligence reports proving that NSA was actually successful at that.


It is assumed that these and some other documents came from at least one other leaker, a "second source" besides Snowden, which is something that still not many people are aware of. The files that can be attributed to this second source have some interesting similarities with the Shadow Brokers leak. Like the ANT catalog published in December 2013, they are about hacking tools and like the XKEYSCORE rules published in 2014 and 2015 they are internal NSA computer code.

This alone doesn't say much, but it's the choice of the kind of files that makes these leaks look very similar: no fancy presentations, but plain technical data sets that make it possible to identify specific operations and individual targets - the kind of documents many people are most eager to see, but which were rarely provided through the Snowden reporting.

As mainstream media became more cautious in publishing such files, it is possible that someone who also had access to the Snowden cache went rogue and started leaking documents just for harming NSA and the US - without attributing these leaks to Snowden because he would probably not approve them, and also to suggest that more people followed Snowden's example.

Of course the Shadow Brokers leak can still be unrelated to the earlier ones. In that case it could have been that an NSA hacker mistakenly uploaded his whole toolkit to a server outside the NSA's secure networks (also called a "staging server" or "redirector" to mask his true location) and that someone was able to grab the files from there - an option favored by for example Edward Snowden and security researcher the grugq.



Diagram showing the various stages and networks involved
in botnet hacking operations by NSA's TAO division
(source - click to enlarge)


An insider?

Meanwhile, several former NSA employees have said that the current Shadow Brokers leak might not be the result of a hack from the outside, but that it's more likely that the files come from an insider, who stole them like Snowden did earlier.

Of course it's easier for an insider to grab these files than for a foreign intelligence agency, let alone an ordinary hacker, to steal them from the outside. But if that's the case, it would mean that this insider would still be able to exfiltrate files from NSA premises (something that shouldn't be possible anymore after Snowden), and that this insider has the intent to embarrass and harm the NSA (Snowden at least said he just wanted to expose serious wrongdoings).

Here we should keep in mind that such an insider is not necessarily just a frustrated individual, but can also be a mole from a hostile foreign intelligence agency.

Update:
On August 21, NSA expert James Bamford also confirmed that TAO's ANT catalog wasn't included in the Snowden documents (Snowden didn't want to talk about it publicly though). Bamford favors the option of a second insider, who may have leaked the documents through Jacob Appelbaum and Julian Assange.


Russian intelligence?

On Twitter, Edward Snowden said that "Circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility", but it's not clear what that evidence should be. It seems he sees this leak as a kind of warning from the Russians not to take revenge for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mails, which was attributed to Russian intelligence.

This was also what led Bruce Schneier to think it might be the Russians, because who other than a state actor would steal so much data and wait three years before publishing? Not mentioned by Schneier is that this also applies to the documents that can be attributed to the second source: they also pre-date June 2013.

A related point of speculation is the text that accompanied the Shadow Brokers files, which is in bad English, as if it was written by a Russian or some other non-western individual. This is probably distraction, as it looks much more like a fluent American/English speaker who tried to imitate unexperienced English.

The text also holds accusations against "Elites", in a style which very much resembles the language used by anarchist hacker groups, but that can also be faked to distract from the real source (it was also noticed that the e-mail address used by Shadow Brokers (userll6gcwaknz@tutanota.com) seems to refer to the manga Code Geass in which an exiled prince takes revenge against the "Britannian Empire").



Screenshot of some file folders from the Shadow Brokers archive
(click to enlarge)


Conclusion

With the authenticity of the Shadow Brokers files being confirmed, the biggest question is: who leaked them? There's a small chance that it was a stupid accident in which an NSA hacker uploaded his whole toolkit to a non-secure server and someone (Russians?) found it there.

Somewhat more likely seems the option that they came from an insider, and in that case, this leak doesn't stand alone, but fits into a series of leaks in which, since October 2013, highly sensitive NSA data sets were published.

So almost unnoticed by the mainstream media and the general public, someone was piggybacking on the Snowden-revelations with leaks that were often more embarrassing for NSA than many reportings based upon the documents from Snowden.

Again, obtaining such documents through hacking into highly secured NSA servers seems less likely than the chance that someone from inside the agency took them. If that person was Edward Snowden, then probably someone with access to his documents could have started his own crusade against NSA.

If that person wasn't Snowden, then it's either another NSA employee who was disgruntled and frustrated, or a mole for a hostile foreign intelligence agency. But for an individual without the protection of the public opinion like Snowden, it must be much harder and riskier to conduct these leaks than for a foreign state actor.

Former NSA counterintelligence officer John Schindler also thinks there could have been a (Russian) mole, as the agency has a rather bad track record in finding such spies. If this scenario is true, then it would be almost an even bigger scandal than that of the Snowden-leaks.



Links and Sources
- TheWeek.com: How the NSA got hacked
- EmptyWheel.com: Where Are NSA’s Overseers on the Shadow Brokers Release?
- Observer.com: NSA ‘Shadow Brokers’ Hack Shows SpyWar With Kremlin Is Turning Hot
- TechCrunch.com: Everything you need to know about the NSA hack (but were afraid to Google)
- WashingtonPost.com: Powerful NSA hacking tools have been revealed online
- NYTimes.com: ‘Shadow Brokers’ Leak Raises Alarming Question: Was the N.S.A. Hacked?
- LawfareBlog.com: NSA and the No Good, Very Bad Monday

June 24, 2016

E-mails from inside the NSA bureaucracy


Earlier this month, the NSA declassified a huge set of internal e-mails, following FOIA-requests about the issue of whether Edward Snowden had raised concerns about the NSA's surveillance programs through proper channels inside the agency.

> Download the declassified e-mails (very large pdf)

Here, we will take a look at the administrative details these internal NSA e-mails provide. Next time we will see what their content says about the concerns that Snowden claimed to have raised.



Internal e-mail from NSA director Michael Rogers. In the signature block we see his
NSANet and SIPRNet e-mail addresses and his non-secure phone number (all redacted)
(Click to enlarge - See also: NSA director Alexander's phones)



E-mail addresses

Except from the classification markings, the NSA's internal e-mails aren't very different from those exchanged by most other people around the world. But they do show for example some details about the internal communications networks of the agency.

From the signature blocks underneath the e-mails we learn that, depending on their function and tasks, NSA employees have e-mail addresses for one or more of the following four computer networks:

- NSANet for messages classified up to Top Secret/SCI (Five Eyes signals intelligence). On this network the address format for e-mail is jjdoe@nsa

- JWICS for messages classified up to Top Secret/SCI (US intelligence). The address format is jjdoe@nsa.ic.gov

- SIPRNET for messages classified up to Secret (mainly US military). The address format is jjdoe@nsa.smil.mil

- UNCL for unclassified messages, likely through NIPRNet. The address format is jjdoe@nsa.gov


For e-mail, all NSA employees have display names in a standardized format: first comes their family name, given name and middle initial, sometimes followed by "Jr" or a high military rank. Then follows "NSA" and the proper organizational designator, then "USA" for their nationality and finally "CIV" for civilian employees, "CTR" for contractors, "USN" for Navy, "USA" for Army or "USAF" for Air Force members.

Thus, the display name of the current NSA director is "Rogers Michael S ADM NSA-D USA USN", while that of the previous director was "Alexander Keith B GEN NSA-D USA USA". In 2012, Snowden had the display name "Snowden Edward J NSA-FHX4 USA CTR":



E-mail from Snowden as systems administrator in Hawaii, August 2012
The redacted part of the classification marking
seems to hide a dissemination marking *
(Click to enlarge)


The organizational designator FHX4 is interesting. FH stands for Field station Hawaii, but X4, being unit 4 of division X, is still a mystery. The field station divisions have the same designators as those at NSA headquarters, where there's also a division X, but so far no document gave an indication what it does.

The signature block shows that Snowden worked as a systems administrator for Dell's Advanced Solutions Group and that he was deployed at the Technology Department of NSA's Cryptologic Center in Hawaii, more specifically at the Office of Information Sharing. The latter has the organizational designator (F)HT322 and is therefore different from that in Snowden's display name.



In the declassified messages we only see display names, not the actual e-mail addresses behind them. Therefore, only the classification markings on the messages provide an indication on which network they were exchanged.

From an e-mail that was declassified earlier we know that in April 2013 Snowden used the address "ejsnowd@nsa.ic.gov", which is the format for the JWICS network, but was apparently used on NSANet.*

From one of the declassified e-mails about NSA's internal investigation it seems that Snowden had just two mail accounts: "we have his TS [Top Secret] NSANet email and his UNCLASSIFIED NSA.gov email", but this is followed by some redacted lines.*

Finally, the signature blocks of some NSA employees also provide a link to their dropbox for sending them files that may be too large for e-mail. Such dropboxes have addresses like "http://urn.nsa.ic.gov/dropbox/[...]".



Example of an NSA message, with in the signature block e-mail addresses for JWICS and an
unclassified network, and phone numbers for the NSTS and the non-secure phone networks
OPS 2B is the wider and lower one of the two black NSA headquarters buildings
(Click to enlarge)


Telephone numbers

Besides e-mail addresses, many messages also have phone numbers in the signature blocks. They show numbers for one or more of the telephone systems used at NSA:

- NSTS, which stands for National Secure Telephone System and is NSA's internal telephone network for secure calls. Numbers for this network have the format 969-8765 and are often marked with "(s)" for "secure"

- STE, which stands for Secure Terminal Equipment, being a telephone device capable of encrypting phone calls on its own. Telephone numbers can be written in the format (301) 234-5678 or as STE 9876.

- BLACK, CMCL or Commercial, which are numbers for non-secure telephones that may also access the public telephone network. They have the regular format (301) 234-5678 and are often marked with "(b)" for "black" (as opposed to "red") or with "(u)" for unclassified.



The NSA/CSS Threat Operations Center (NTOC) at NSA headquarters, with from left to right:
an STE secure phone, a probably non-secure telephone and a phone for the NSTS
(Photo: NSA, 2012 - Click to enlarge)


TIKICUBE

Finally, releasing such a huge set of documents in which many parts had to be redacted always bears the risk that something is overlooked. That also happened this time, as in one e-mail from an investigator from NSA's Counterintelligence Investigations unit Q311 they forgot to redact the codeword TIKICUBE:




TIKICUBE appears to be a unit of the Investigations Division Q3. Whether this might be a special unit investigating the Snowden leak isn't clear though.

The abbreviations behind the investigators name are: CFE for Certified Fraud Examiner and CISSP for Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

We also see that this investigation division is not located at the NSA headquarters complex at Fort Meade, but at FANX. This stands for Friendship Annex, a complex of NSA office buildings in Linthicum, near Baltimore, some 12 km. or 7.5 miles north-east of Fort Meade.

The famous blue-black glass headquarters buildings are OPS 2A and OPS 2B, while the SIGINT division is apparently in the flat 3-story building from the late 1950s, designated OPS 1.


May 19, 2016

German journalists about working with the Snowden documents


Last Monday, the website The Intercept started publishing larger batches of documents from the Snowden trove, so they can now also be examined by the public. It's a new phase after previously documents were generally disclosed as part of journalistic reports, but the number of such publications steadily declined over the last two years.

For how it was to work with the Snowden documents can be learned from an interesting interview with two journalists from the German Magazine Der Spiegel. They not only published a whole range of articles based upon the Top Secret NSA documents, but also a book which is much more informative than that of Glenn Greenwald.

The interview with Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark from Der Spiegel, as well as with Svea Eckert from the German broadcaster NDR, was part of the Network Research (Netzwerk Recherche) annual conference, which was held on July 3 and 4, 2015:



Interview with Marcel Rosenbach, Holger Stark
and Svea Eckert, July 2015 (in German)


Because the interview is fully in German, here's an extensive summary in English, which also looks more closely at a few specific revelations:
- The Snowden documents
- The National Intelligence Priority Framework (NIPF)
- A MONSTERMIND/CYBERCOP presentation
- Eavesdropping on chancellor Merkel
- Some other issues
 

The Snowden documents

Journalists from Der Spiegel were provided with several ten thousand digital documents through the documentary film maker Laura Poitras, who had been in direct contact with Edward Snowden.

According to Holger Stark, it was clear that Snowden had sorted the documents, not very fine-grained, but he had put them in a few folders, according to topics that had his special interest, like operations of the NSA divisions TAO (hacking) and SSO (cable tapping). Rosenberg said that it looked like Snowden selected the documents based upon his concerns regarding civil liberties and that het didn't some "collect it all" scraping.

(although in the film CitizenFour, Snowden himself said: "I cast such a wide net" that it would be difficult for NSA to determine how many documents he actually took)*

The journalists tried to search and filter the documents automatically, but a huge number of them had to be read and analysed manually, and read over and over again, in order to understand what was in them and what their importance could be. For that, they also consulted experts for cryptography and network architecture as well as former NSA employees like Binney and Drake (independent intelligence experts were not mentioned).

It was possible to ask Snowden, but not in a regular or easy way, also because he wanted to stay at a distance of the journalistic work. The journalists couldn't tell or estimate how many documents Snowden actually took. Der Spiegel got the documents unredacted but in the documents that were published, editors redacted most of the names.

Der Spiegel frequently asked NSA to review the documents they wanted to publish, in order to prevent that lives could become in danger. Sometimes NSA asked to remove things, but when it was obvious that that was for political reasons, the request was ignored. But in a few other cases Der Spiegel didn't publish or partly redacted the documents.


BOUNDLESSINFORMANT

Despite all their efforts, there were still many gaps and questions. This resulted in for example a wrong interpretation of NSA's data visualisation tool BOUNDLESSINFORMANT. In August 2013, Der Spiegel published charts from this tool that were initially interpreted as showing how many data NSA collected from several European countries. Soon, BND and NSA denied this and explained that the charts show data that European agencies provided to the Americans.

Holger Stark admitted that their initial interpretation was apparently not correct, but that there are still many questions about this issue. One of the difficulties was that NSA and US government were not willing to respond to questions about this program, so they decided to publish their best guess. Rosenbach added that major foreign papers also shared their initial interpretation (maybe because the wrong interpretation came from Greenwald?).


BOUNDLESSINFORMANT screenshot showing metadata provided by BND
(click to enlarge)


 

The National Intelligence Priority Framework (NIPF)

One document that wasn't published, but only reported about is the National Intelligence Priority Framework (NIPF), which contains the priorities for the US intelligence community as set by the White House. During the interview a part of the original NIPF document was shown for the first time:




The NIPF consists of a large matrix with each cell indicating the intersection between a state or non-state actor and an intelligence topic. A readable reconstruction of the NIPF based upon this new piece and earlier sources, can be found here (pdf).

Over time, Rosenbach and Stark learned to interpret the Snowden documents by combining information from multiple documents. A separate document, an internal NSA newsletter from December 2009, for example provided additional information about the priorities of the NIPF chart:




This newsletter says that updated versions of the NIPF are released about twice a year, and that these are run against the National SIGINT Requirements Process (NSRP), which sets the priorities for acquiring Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). The 5 levels of NIPF priorities are then translated (by the SIGINT Committee or SIGCOM) to the 9 levels of SIGINT priorities, based upon the importance of the SIGINT contribution.

The first NIPF was issued in 2003 and at that time the matrix contained over 2300 cells! There were hundreds of issues with priority 1 and 2, way too many to be managable. So over the years the number of priorities, particularly the numbers of priority 1s and 2s had been reduced.

According to the journalists, the newsletter also explains that topics with priority 1 and 2 are meant for the president and the White House, while priority 3 is for cabinet ministers, the Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon. For these highest priorities, covert intelligence methods are used. For priorities 4 and 5 open sources may be sufficient and their results are mainly used for political analysis.

For the Spiegel journalists this bureaucratic process illustrates that NSA isn't an agency that went rogue, but that they are directed by the political information needs from the White House (something that was usually conveniently ignored).

   

A MONSTERMIND/CYBERCOP presentation

Svea Eckert, a documentary maker for the regional German broadcasster NDR, was also present at the interview, and she had brought with her the laptop they had used for working with the Snowden documents. The computer was newly bought for this purpose and was never connected to the internet.

At NDR, Eckert was doing research for a documentary about the internet as a battle space, when a colleague of her in the US was provided with a thumb drive containing Snowden documents that had been selected on their relevance for the topic of the documentary. It wasn't told who the middlemen for these documents were, and apparently different German news media got documents from different sources.

The source had said that for these documents only the external TAILS operating system should be used. The same system was used by other people who worked with Snowden documents, like Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Barton Gellman. On the dedicated laptop, Eckert showed an example of what these documents look like:




In the window we see for example an internal NSA newsletter with an interview with a hacker from NSA's TAO division, a Cyber Warfare Lexicon and a powerpoint presentation. The latter has the filename "MONSTERMIND_presentation (copy).pptx", but when it was opened, it actually had the cover term CYBERCOP on the front slide and it was prepared by the "CyberCOP Product Manager".

Eckert explained that although most of these documents were very interesting, not everything was newsworthy enough or in the public interest to publish. Also the opinions of various experts had to be asked, because journalists were not always able to judge what the context or the importance of particular pieces of information was.


CYBERCOP

The CYBERCOP presentation is from April 11, 2013 and contains several screenshots of a graphical user interface in which NSA analysts can see where cyber attacks occur. The map part seems very similar to a well-known flashy visualisation on the website of the Norwegian cyber security company Norse:




It was decided not to publish the full MONSTERMIND/CYBERCOP presentation, but the documentary Schlachtfeld Internet ("Battlefield Internet") did contain several slides, which showed that NSA is apparently powerful enough to trace such attacks and that therefore the agency must be present at numerous points on the internet. This was considered newsworthy enough to report about.

In the documentary itself it was explained that an analysis tool called CYBERCOP makes it possible for NSA to monitor "cyber war" in real time. The presentation described at least one specific attack: on April 10, 2012, the US federal banking system in New York was succesfully attacked by Iran, not directly, but through thousands of computers around the world, controlled through internet servers in Germany.

Broadcaster NDR published three slides of the CYBERCOP presentation here (pdf). Two of them show the CYBERCOP interface in a high resolution:


(click to enlarge)


MONSTERMIND

The MONSTERMIND system was first disclosed in a very long interview that James Bamford had with Edward Snowden in August 2014. There, Snowden said that MONSTERMIND is a frightening program that automated "the process of hunting for the beginnings of a foreign cyberattack".

It could also automatically prevent attacks from entering the country, but its unique capability is that "instead of simply detecting and killing the malware at the point of entry, MonsterMind would automatically fire back, with no human involvement" - with the risk of hitting the wrong one, as Snowden warned.

The "killing" capability was also described in Eckert's documentary, but without mentioning the codename MONSTERMIND. It didn't became clear whether this just came from Snowden's recollection or that it's mentioned in the CYBERCOP presentation (or other documents).

 

Eavesdropping on chancellor Merkel

The journalists from Der Spiegel also found interesting things purely by accident. The cache of documents for example contained an NSA presentation from the Center for Content Extraction (CCE, unit designator T1221) about a system to automatically sort out interesting and useful parts of intercepted phone calls.

One slide of this presentation shows an example list of some chiefs of state (cos), among which German chancellor Angela Merkel was listed. The presentation was not about actual interception operations, but did provide an indication that Merkel had been a target:



Der Spiegel published this slide on March 29, 2014 and the full presentation (pdf) was released online in June 2014. That chancellor Merkel had been a target of NSA had already been revealed in October 2013, based upon a database entry that allegedly did not came from the Snowden documents, but from another and yet unidentified second source.

So far, it seems that this example from the chiefs-of-state list is the only confirmation of NSA's targeting of chancellor Merkel that came from the Snowden documents. The intercepted content published by Wikileaks is also supposed to be from the second source.

 

Some other issues

During and after the interview, Stark, Rosenbach and Eckert were also asked about various aspects of working with Snowden Documents:

- Contrary to some claims made by the US government, there seemed to be little danger that these documents could endanger the lives of operatives or other people. The work that NSA does is highly technical and therefore the documents hardly contain any names. Most of the names they do contain are of authors, not of operative field agents.

- Eckert found it disappointing that the documents had almost no code or malware signatures in them, which could have been useful to identify hacking operations conducted by the NSA (Eckert said the XKEYSCORE rules were not included in the set she received). Again this was because the documents were often for management and training purposes and contained information on a meta level instead of actual operational details.

- The journalists were aware of the fact that these presentations had to be judged according to their intended purpose and audience and that the audio of these presentations was of course absent, although some presentations came with speaker's notes, which proved to be useful. Important was also to that presentations will often have presented things in a positive way.

Finally, when asked about the future of the Snowden documents, the journalists thought that it could be good to make them available for scientific research, but that it's not up to them to decide. They were not in favor of making all the documents publicly available, like in the way Wikileaks used to do.

March 30, 2016

The phones of US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper



One of the key players during the Snowden affair was Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He is responsible for coordinating all 16 American intelligence agencies, a role which is reflected by the number and the types of telephone equipment in his office.

Clapper has six phones, more than for example the director of the NSA, or the Defense Secretary. Here we will take a close look at these telecommunication devices used by the US Director of National Intelligence.


The office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created in 2004, after the 9/11 Commission Report recommended a stronger and separate leadership for the US intelligence community. Before, it was the director of the CIA who acted as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in order to coordinate the various intelligence agencies.



Australian foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd (right) meeting DNI James Clapper (left)
(Photo: Australian Foreign Affairs Department - Click to enlarge)


The telecommunications equipment used by DNI James Clapper can be seen in a picture from September 17, 2010, which shows his office in the headquarters building of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) at the Liberty Crossing compound near Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, while he was visited by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd.

When we take the high resolution version of the picture above, we can see that the displays and buttons of all the phones behind the DNI's desk are blurred by a censor. Apparently there's some rule for that, because from this distance it would be impossible to read anything.



Close-up of the telecommunications equipment behind the desk of DNI James Clapper.


IST-2 phone

The first phone on the left side is an Integrated Services Telephone version 2 (IST-2), which was designed by Raytheon and subsequently manufactured by Telecore, a small company that took over the production of these devices.

The IST is a so called "red phone", which means that it's connected to the Defense Red Switch Network (DRSN). This is the main secure telephone network for military command and control communications and connects all mayor US command centers and many other military facilities.

Like previous red phones made by Electrospace Systems Inc. (ESI), the IST-2 allows to make both secure and non-secure calls through this one single device. The phone itself has no encryption capability: any secure calls are encrypted in bulk before leaving the secure building, enclave or compound.

As part of a military telephone network, the IST-2 also has the distinctive 4 red buttons which are used to select the four levels of a system called Multilevel Precedence and Preemption (MLPP). This allows to make phone calls that get precedence over ones with a lower priority.



VoIP phones

Next, there are three Cisco 7975 unified IP phones, which belong to the most widely used high-end office phones. These phones have no encryption capability, but they can easily be used as part of dedicated and secure Voice-over-IP networks.

The first Cisco phone, next to the IST-2, seems to have a bright green label, indicating that it has to be used for unclassified phone calls. Probably this phone is part of the internal non-secure telephone network of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The second Cisco phone, right of the computer screen, has no recognizable label. It can be part of any secure or non-secure telephone network which DNI Clapper needs to have access to. One option could be the National Secure Telephone System (NSTS), which is used by the signals intelligence community (i.e. NSA).


The third Cisco phone has a distinctive bright yellow faceplate instead of the standard silver one. This indicates that it's part of the highly secure Executive Voice over Secure IP-network, which connects the President with senior cabinet members and some other high-level government officials.

This top-level telephone network was set up in 2007-2008. Before, the President was connected to the general military DRSN, but during the attacks of 9/11, this network appeared to be not reliable enough.

It's this bright yellow Cisco phone that shows that the Director of National Intelligence has direct access to the President. As we have seen earlier, even the director of NSA doesn't have this kind of telephone, and therefore lacks a direct line to the President.



STE phones

The last type of telephone we see in Clapper's office are two big black phones called Secure Terminal Equipment (STE). These are made by the American defense contractor L3 Communications and are highly secure devices capable of encrypting calls up to the level of Top Secret/SCI.

STE phones can be used to make secure calls to anyone with a similar or compatible device and there are an estimated 400.000 STE users. STE is the successor of the almost legendary STU-III secure phone system from the late 1980s.

These STE phones can be used for secure communications with everyone working for the US government, the military, its contractors, and also foreign partners who can not be reached through a more select secure telephone network, like the DRSN or the NSTS.



Videoteleconferencing

Besides the six telephones, DNI Clapper also has two videoteleconferencing (VTC) screens behind his desk. In the first picture we saw a white videoconferencing screen at the far right, and another picture, from a different angle, shows another VTC screen standing at the far left side:



A black Tandberg Centric 1700 MXP VTC screen behind DNI James Clapper.
(Photo: ODNI)


Both these VTC screens have a high-definition camera and are made by the Norwegian manufacturer Tandberg. In 2010 this company was bought by Cisco Systems, so their equipment can be safely used for classified US videoconferencing purposes.

Maybe one of the sets in Clapper's office is used for unclassified, and the other for classified videoconferencing, but it's also possible that both are used for secure video connections but at different classification levels.

At least one of the VTC screens will be used for Top Secret/SCI Videoconferencing, which is for users within the intelligence community. From within secured locations (SCI enclaves), this video feed goes over the JWICS-network, which is secured by stream-based Type 1 bulk encryption devices.



Computer

Finally, there's also one computer screen standing in the midst of the telephones. Below is a keyboard and likely there's also a KVM-switch to enable access to multiple physically separated networks through a single "Keyboard, Video and Mouse" set.

For US intelligence officials, such a KVM-switch usually provides access to NIPRNet or DNI-U (Unclassified, for general purposes), SIPRNet (Secret, for military and intelligence purposes) and JWICS (Top Secret/SCI, for intelligence purposes).