Stellar Wind

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For flows of particles from stars, see stellar wind.
2009 OIG Draft Report on Stellar Wind

Stellar Wind or STELLARWIND is the code name of a Sensitive Compartmented Information security compartment for information collected under the President's Surveillance Program (PSP).[1] This was a program by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the presidency of George W. Bush and revealed by Thomas Tamm to The New York Times in 2008.[2]

The operation was approved by President George W. Bush shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001.[3] STELLARWIND was succeeded during the presidency of Barack Obama by four major lines of intelligence collection in the territorial United States together capable of spanning the full range of modern telecommunications.[4]

The program's activities involved data mining of a large database of the communications of American citizens, including e-mail communications, phone conversations, financial transactions, and Internet activity.[2] William Binney, a retired Technical Leader with the NSA, discussed some of the architectural and operational elements of the program at the 2012 Chaos Communication Congress.[5]

The intelligence community was also able to obtain from the Treasury Department suspicious activity reports, or "SARS", which are reports of activities such as large cash transactions that are submitted by financial institutions under anti-money laundering rules.[2]

There were internal disputes within the Justice Department about the legality of the program, because data are collected for large numbers of people, not just the subjects of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants.[5][6] During the Bush Administration, the Stellar Wind cases were referred to by FBI agents as "pizza cases" because many seemingly suspicious cases turned out to be food takeout orders. According to Mueller, approximately 99 percent of the cases led nowhere, but "it's that other 1% that we've got to be concerned about".[3]

In March 2012 Wired magazine published "The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)" talking about a vast new NSA facility in Utah and says "For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed STELLARWIND, in detail," naming the official William Binney, a former NSA code breaker. Binney went on to say that the NSA had highly secured rooms that tap into major switches, and satellite communications at both AT&T and Verizon.[7] The article suggested that the otherwise dispatched STELLARWIND is actually an active program. This conclusion was supported by the exposure of Room 641A in AT&T's operations center in San Francisco in 2006.

In June 2013 the Washington Post and the Guardian published an OIG draft report, dated March 2009, leaked by Edward Snowden detailing the Stellar Wind program.[1][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b NSA Inspector General report on the President's Surveillance Program, March 24, 2009, page 10, note 3.
  2. ^ a b c Isikoff, Michael (December 13, 2008). "The Fed Who Blew the Whistle: Is he a hero or a criminal?". Newsweek. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Is the FBI Up to the Job 10 Years After 9/11?" April 28, 2011
  4. ^ Gellman, Barton (June 16, 2013). "U.S. surveillance architecture includes collection of revealing Internet, phone metadata". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^ a b Binney, William. 29C3 Panel: Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Drake, William Binney on whistleblowing and surveillance (Flash) (YouTube Video). Hamburg, Germany: Chaos Communication Congress. Event occurs at 1:03:00. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ Sanchez, Julian (July 29, 2013). "What the Ashcroft 'Hospital Showdown' on NSA spying was all about". Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  7. ^ Bamford, James (March 15, 2012). "The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)". Wired. Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  8. ^ "NSA inspector general report on email and internet data collection under Stellar Wind". March 9, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 

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