Security

One handy chart shines light on all of the NSA's once-secret spy programs

NSA matrix by ProPublica

Above: NSA matrix by ProPublica

Image Credit: ProPublica

If you’ve been flummoxed by the unrelenting stream of stories and scope of the National Security Agency’s metadata collection programs, you’re not alone.

American online investigative reporting site ProPublica in New York has created a fun and engrossing colorful graphic outlining most of the programs thus far that have come to light by NSA leaker extraordinaire Edward Snowden, who remains holed up in a Moscow flat with a bounty on his head.

The graphic is all the more timely since the office of the Director of National Intelligence, a potential sinkhole of larded bureaucracy, released the NSA’s first ever “transparency” report that begs more questions than it answers. In fact, two U.S. senators blasted the report Monday as anything but transparent.

“Just as with the New York Magazine approval matrix that served as our inspiration, the placement of each program is based on judgments and is approximate,” ProPublica wrote in a post.

You can use the graphic to test your NSA knowledge. Learn about alleged NSA programs like Prism, Squeaky Dolphin, and HappyFoot. Learn about NSA honey traps, foreign embassy targeting, hacking Anonymous and the Ant Catalog. Learn how they loosed Trojan Horse’s into Apple and Google’s user streams.

The graph is easy to navigate and again. But remember, some of the programs that Snowden outed no longer exist. That’s because many received new acronyms, according to former intelligence officials. And its likely the programs divulged in the leaks are more powerful than before.

For years, the NSA operated on the maxim that deploying the best technology kept them 10 years ahead of their rivals, or 10 years ahead of commercial technology available to the public.

That maxim is no longer valid, as the NSA has had to keep up with developers who need weeks or months to develop apps that takes the agency, and its bureaucracy, months or years to build.

Check out the graphic. Move the cursor over cartoon-like characters that disclose the programs in question. And remember, the NSA really stands for “No Such Agency.”