Analysing The Snowden SIDToday Files: Part Four

In April 2017, The Intercept published it’s fourth bulk release of files from the Snowden archives, 252 documents from SIDtoday, the newsletter of the Signals Intelligence Directorate of the National Security Agency.

SIDtoday is an internal NSA publication of bite size proportions, averaging just over a page per article. Predictably upbeat and celebratory in nature, the general themes are news bulletins on:

  • HR: awards, promotions and vacancies
  • Compliance & oversight
  • Theatres of NSA operations and “customers” (other agencies)
  • Employee safety including mental health
  • Events, meetings, trainings and employee profiles

Below are our unique findings from analysing this batch of documents. Only points not already highlighted by The Intercept when the files were released are included. As promised, we are mining the gems hidden in plain sight.

Rather than meeting in an office building or a military facility, the “year’s most senior cryptologic strategic planning conference between the UK and US” saw then-NSA Director General Michael Hayden, along with his GCHQ counterpart and 20 top staffers meeting in a luxurious English country mansion of epic proportions.

The SIDToday report describes the meeting place as a 17th century mansion, a “fine Palladian house, the country residence of the UK Foreign Secretary… It is set in 27 acres of gardens, within an estate of 3,000 acres, and is located 23 miles south of London, in the Kent countryside.”

There can no longer be any doubt that a global spy system is in place, or about who is in control of it. In a document titled “SIGINT Leaders Peer into the Future, See Global System“, created by the Signals Intelligence Director of the NSA, the question is asked: “how to make the global SIGINT system run like a well-oiled machine?”

The document was a debrief on the heels of the “annual SIGINT Site Commanders Operational Review” conference at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The meeting was tasked to discuss the governance structure of the “global SIGINT network in the 21st century.” The Director stated that oversight would be minimal – “The infrastructure will require oversight, but the oversight will be facilitative and supportive rather than directive” and that although it was being discussed in future terms, “Some elements of this infrastructure already exist, some are being built, and others are part of long-term acquisition programs.

The Director also stated, of the infrastructure expansion “We will not wait until all of the pieces are in place to start using them.”

Even in times of peace, the military industrial complex continues unabated. A document sheds light on the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, which is described as providing “the combatant commands, Joint Staff, and other customers with effects-based precision targeting options for selected networks and nodes in order to carry out the national security and military strategies of the United States during peace, crisis, and war.

The document continues: “JWAC has the ability to conduct comprehensive technical analyses to identify critical networks, nodes, and other points of influence within a threat’s infrastructure systems. Recommendations are made for both kinetic and non-kinetic solution sets.

Kinetic of course meaning, in military terms, the use of lethal weaponry.

Additionally, the JWAC hosts a National Geospatial Agency-sponsored online image library that includes overhead images with “100% coverage of 35 countries.” (Current as at the document’s creation, in 2005.) The library had been expanded to house “unexploited airborne digital imagery” from Predator Drones and Global Hawks.






















This article is under construction. Please check back at a later date for the complete findings from Batch 4 of the SIDToday files.


PLEASE NOTE: The above analysis was undertaken live on You Tube for the DecipherYou web series by journalists Suzie Dawson and Elizabeth Lea Vos. The full playlist of episodes is available at this link.

This article would not have been possible without the obviously immense amount of work invested by staff at The Intercept in preparing these files for release – you can read their reports on the April 2017 SIDtoday files by clicking on this link.