WikiLeaks Publishes NSA Target List

As part of an ongoing series of classified NSA target list and raw intercepts, WikiLeaks published details of the NSA’s spying on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, and key Japanese and EU trade reps. WikiLeaks never says this, but it’s pretty obvious that these documents don’t come from Snowden’s archive.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what I expect the NSA to do. It’s spying on the rest of the world that I have a problem with.

Other leaks in this series: France, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Italy, the European Union, and the United Nations.

BoingBoing post.

Posted on March 1, 2016 at 12:55 PM34 Comments


Evan March 1, 2016 1:23 PM

Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what I expect the NSA to do. It’s spying on the rest of the world that I have a problem with.

Well, as it turns out, it’s easier (for some definition of “easy”) to spy on the entire world by undermining encryption standards, insisting on back doors everywhere, tapping cables, and exploiting 0-days than it is to spy on leaders in a world where general mores of privacy and respect take hold.

ianf March 1, 2016 1:33 PM

[…] “Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what Bruce expect the NSA to do.”

Why ?leaders? (and then of friendly nations/ otherwise partners in world affairs), rather than known foreign intelligence services operatives? It’s not like e.g. Merkel or Netanyahu are kept up to date with the nitty-gritty of to the USA’s (economic? national?) interests’ potentially offensive activities. And let’s not beat about the bush: it’s not intelligence analysis of KEY PRINCIPALS that the NSA concentrates on, but mass hoovering up of all electronic data that it ever “comes across.” Only then does the NSA, perhaps, search for needles in “aircraft hangars full of haystacks of data” (to use a visual analogy) – with unknown tangible dividends.

Carl March 1, 2016 2:11 PM


I assume Bruce doesn’t limit his acceptance of spying to just foreign leaders. The NSA spying on intelligence operatives is, in my opinion, acceptable – that’s what their whole purpose is.

Mass surveillance exponentially increases the size of the haystack. Whether or not mass surveillance makes real-time/retrospective spying easier doesn’t justify surveilling the whole population.

Anon March 1, 2016 2:33 PM

I think it is a huge attempt at behavioral analysis and prediction. To make it anything like accurate, you need data, and lots of it, to put into the models.

There is simply too much data to attempt real-time detection, less detection of a future crime at present, but combined with a predictive model and tons of past data, it might be possible to do it in the future.

In the meantime, if anyone is serious about security, don’t use anything with an internet connection. The new UK laws give the state powers to hack anything and everything. Next, they’ll be demanding recordings of conversations held in living rooms.

Advanced Neolithic Systems LLC March 1, 2016 4:10 PM

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Shitcanning the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and concomitant principles of sovereign honor dating back to the Bronze Age by seizing diplomatic archives and correspondence is exactly what I expect the NSA to do.

So what, the Kings of Lagash and Umma would have been ashamed to do it. They were pussies. Let’s go back to the good old days when men were men, back before they had wheels. Ugga bugga!

Xen March 1, 2016 6:22 PM

As a foreigner, if you want to keep your “allies”, not deploying the world’s most invasive spying arsenal against them would be a nice gesture.

Layer One March 1, 2016 6:30 PM

I’d Rather Live in a Country Where the NSA fought for Me, Wouldn’t You? (Apple v. FBI @ Layer 8)

Before you read this, take a few minutes to study this slide presentation.

Pay attention to how data is ex-filtrated, download the presentation before it ‘goes away.’

Note the use of the A7 chip.

Keep in mind, the technology is more than a decade old.

This Apple iPhone is a layer 8 discussion tailor made for public consumption and id10t commentary. It does have its uses however.

Apple should have handed the data over immediately without even making an issue out of it.

People are dead and the longer we wait, the more that are in danger. What is Apple’s problem?

If we wanted to know more about any device, we would already know. There is no piece of equipment we can not exfiltrate data from. WAKE UP! This phone just wasn’t being watched so close. We need more money and more talented people to protect this great nation!

There were 30 million Europeans, Russians and Jews killed in WW II in the European Theater. We died for you in order to stop the world from sinking into hell. If you know what knowing the truth is without words when you are with someone you can understand me and I can understand you.

You all complain about loss of privacy and rights, without us, you would be on the front lines fighting in our shoes wishing that someone cared enough to fight for you. I know, I lived.

Speaking fluent German, I translated much of Dr.Mengela’s work. He would be an angel compared to the current state of the killing art. Breathable biodegradable smart assembling nano chips that can mimick disease. Engineered cellular toxins leading to inexplicable cell blebbing. Where are your prescription drugs manufactured? Who checks your drugs for purity? Who owns the companies that manufacture those drugs?

How many of you have been out on the water and pointed your hand held search light beam at something? I can point a device just like that at your head from miles distant and change your emotions. I can place multiple signaling devices around your neighborhood and affect your thought patterns. Do you hear voices? Do you have unexplainable headaches? Are you angry at nothing? The technology has gone rogue, sold to the highest bidder. Containment has failed. We are in danger.

War has always been one of the chief advancement paths of human technology. We are the best country on the Earth, we protect the world from itself. Anarchy and regionalism would return without us. Isn’t better to have the world complain about the US and its policies instead of fighting itself in regional warefare and skirmishes?

What the US had to fear is the individual that sells out. The group that turns coat. The political will that is bought out by a company that is not part of the United States. The legitimate businesses that are established here only to buy the trade secrets and credit reports of every American and US based company. Fear more the average US citizen’s apathy and lack of understanding the rest of the world.

My son lives the future I have helped to create. A future put in danger by those that expose our secrets to the world, be it the OPM security breach or by Edward Snowden’s mass exposure of US capability; however history may judge Snowden differently than I as the US may now fall, its underbelly exposed, its might given away or sold piece by piece to other countries.

There is an array in Argentina called Auger for studying high intensity energy received on Earth.

Think about how much power is needed to send signals from the most distant satellite mankind has made back to Earth and how much information is returned.

If you paid attention to the TAO presentation and understand the principle, what kind of data is being ex filtrated from the planet Earth?


JdL March 1, 2016 8:07 PM

Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what I expect the NSA to do.

Why? Are you paranoid? Are you not cognizant of the fact that whatever the U.S. does to other countries, they will figure out how to do to us? Isn’t the best policy to remember the Golden Rule and treat others as we’d like to be treated?

Here’s a question: what government represents the greatest danger to the citizens of the United States? In my view, the answer is unquestionably our own.

tyr March 1, 2016 8:27 PM

One thing that might make a difference is upholding the
oath to defend the constitution against “all enemies
foreign and domestic”. If we had a few less domestic
enemies inside of our own government we could probably
spy on the rest of the world with relative immunity
from the local population who dislike government criminal

Volume One of the Nuremberg trials is available on gutenberg.
Reading the endictments and comparing it to the behaviors
of USA recently might make an intelligent government want
to maintain a lower profile before they wind up on the end
of a rope themselves. That consequence is called the rule
of law in which the precedents you set come back to haunt
you later.

The Soft Underbelly Nation March 1, 2016 11:27 PM

@Anon – it’s a lot of things

Remember of course Assange’s and Mannning’s exposure (not sure I remember correctly any more) of what was it- the U.N. being used as a field for U.S. operatives to swipe fingerprints and credit card numbers of, AFAIK, perfectly innocent individuals only interested in trying to work together to make the world a better place.

The U.S. is Donald Trump. The U.S. is Hillary Clinton. The U.S. and all other nations will be dust in the end, like you and I.

Mark March 2, 2016 3:24 AM

Bruce, why is it acceptable to spy on foreign leaders with whom you’re allied?

You have written that the USA will lose money — the only thing that your country cares about besides power — because we all know what your intelligence services and corporations are up to and will hence no longer buy from American companies. Don’t you think that in the long run these continual revelations will hurt the USA?

This reminds me of the CIA spying on Congress. You can’t be friends with people and spy on them at the same time. Your friends won’t like that. And they will remember.

Cassandra March 2, 2016 5:58 AM

Spying on both allies and non-allies is an inevitable part of being human. There is no such thing as a permanent ally, they come and go, and it is probably more accurate to say that powers have shared interests, rather than being allies as such, and you want to keep tabs on a potential future enemy.

Classically, spying was a labour intensive affair, so necessarily limited. Mass recording of data was not possible. Acceptability of the limited, labour-intensive spying is much higher than the acceptability of mass data collection.

We are at a fork in the road. One way leads to continued mass data collection for subsequent analysis, where any encryption that cannot be decrypted by the government will be regarded as suspicious, if not illegal; the other way tries to put the genie back in the bottle and makes effective encryption mandatory together with strong data privacy laws.

There are very strong tides pushing towards the first – not just from security and intelligence agencies, but also from commercial interests. I suspect our sons and daughters will regard the recent past as equivalent to an anarchic Wild West when compared to the society they live in.

wiredog March 2, 2016 6:19 AM

The US spies on foreign leaders, and they on ours, so that no one gets surprised, and so that you don’t get the sort of cascade of events that led to WW1. In a world with nuclear weapons, surprises can be a very bad thing.

Mike E. March 2, 2016 6:31 AM

I interpreted Bruce’s comment “Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what I expect the NSA to do. It’s spying on the rest of the world that I have a problem with.” to mean he expects the NSA to be performing targeted spying on specific targets with world leaders being an example.

As opposed to being OK with the NSA spying on everyone all the time just so they can have tons of data to mine.

Gerard van Vooren March 2, 2016 6:45 AM

My two cents in this discussion is that I agree with Bruce when he writes “I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what I expect the NSA to do. It’s spying on the rest of the world that I have a problem with.” I too expect the NSA to do that and I also dislike the spying on the rest of the world (I dislike that they spy on everyone, but that’s not what I am gonna argue about).

I am arguing about wording. The NSA stands for National Security Agency. I am okay with that. The problem is the spying for economical benefit. That has nothing to do with National Security. Words matter. I think it would be better if the NSA changed its name.

Bot 6 March 2, 2016 7:08 AM

It’s strange no mention about Chinese or Russian leaders, my guess is that either WikiLeaks or the NSA is their friend

Clive Robinson March 2, 2016 7:23 AM

With regards Bruces comment about the NSA, people should read a little 19&20th Century history about what happens when “Gentlemen don’t read each others mail”.

The problem I have with it is “weasle words of elastic and opposite meaning” to the way most of us would interpret them. The NSA definition of “collect” for instance…

Thus who do you decide is a “leader” is it the figure head, who as others have pointed out is usually more in the dark than many others, or unseen faces in organisations?

Then there is the “two partner tango” of “degrees of freedom” from a leader.

From my point of view Tim Cook is a leader of the organisation Apple. It might be corporate but it is way way more influential than two hundred or more Nations and their leaders. And by influance I’m not talking just “trade within the economy of a nation” there is real world altering political power in large corporates.

Thus it would be a little naive to think the NSA et al do not treat corporates and their leaders just like allied or even hostile nations.

The thing is there are probably a hundred or so times as many Corporates that need watching as there are nations. And by the time you allow for the number of corporate leaders and the two partner tango you could easily be looking at the top 10-15% of the worlds population, and almost certainly encompassing more than 80% of the world wealth.

Thus the question of “leaders” becomes of more interest, as I suspect quite a few people who read and post to this blog fall within the two degrees of freedom…

Oh and for those decrying “economic espionage” what price your job, roof over your head and food on the table? World resources are a zero sum game where maintaining your citizens slice of the world pie is a major concern to avoid civil unrest if not war. For instance it’s claimed that US citizens consume ten times the world average of resources, what do you expect to happen if the US has to halve or even quater their resource usage?

999999999 March 2, 2016 8:39 AM

“but it’s pretty obvious that these documents don’t come from Snowden’s archive.”

Not obvious to me. Once all the Snowden documents go public we can see what came from where. Why are all the Snowden documents not public yet?

ianf March 2, 2016 11:21 AM

@ Carl, assume what you want, but speak for yourself only… Bruce’s hardly deficient in the precision expression department. He wrote “expects to,” so he expects to.

@ One-of-countless-Anons […] “no one serious about security will use anything with an internet connection

… especially those adamant not to be eavesdropped on in any fashion, those of grave criminal or terrorist mind, who by now are well aware of their state opponents’ surveillance “muscle.” So they revert to nominally inefficient, old, “analog” forms of planning and coordination (see my Glenn Greenwald quote on terrorists’ family affairs). The true criminals stay away from the cheap/easy surveillance “avenues,” and in the end all whom the NSA et al can monitor are 2-bit criminals, scheming gold-diggers, and assorted neighborhood con|wo|men.

@ tyr […] “Reading the [Nuremberg Trial’s] indictments and comparing them to the behaviors of USA recently might make an intelligent government want to maintain a lower profile before they wind up on the end of a rope themselves

You’re joking, right? Remember that by redefining the concept of “torture,” any torture conducted by USA’s operatives could no longer be considered torture (General Hayden said that too, and has legal opinions to prove it!) Torture becomes just a matter of semantics. Besides, laws and trials like that are applicable only to losers, whereas the USA is our Forever Winning Team!

@ 999999999

Obviously not from Snowden, because his document hoard dates up to his “defection,” and it is assumed that he’s had no more access to the secret networks after that.

P/K March 2, 2016 10:29 PM

Similar documents published by Wikileaks and some other disclosed Top Secret US documents that were not attributed to Snowden are listed here:

Analysing them indicates that besides Snowden, there are probably two main other leakers, just like Bruce Scheier said earlier on. It’s interesting that the presumed leaker behind these Wikileaks documents is apparently mainly interested in harming the US, as it does not reveal any wrongdoings.

Curious March 3, 2016 1:40 PM

What makes you think “those” Wikileaks documents are mainly concerned with harming USA?

Mat2 March 3, 2016 1:57 PM

“Spying on foreign leaders is exactly what I expect the NSA to do.”

I am dreaming of a multinational agreement in which the participants would agree not to spy on each other. Even if it involved only some most developed Western countries or only NATO countries (for instance), it would be a great step forward.

Rolf Weber March 4, 2016 4:21 AM


None of Wikileaks so far published documents is dated after Snowden.

It is likely that Snowden was the source for this leak. At least it is not very smart to rule it out.

Dirk Praet March 4, 2016 7:15 AM

@ Rolf Weber, @ianf

None of Wikileaks so far published documents is dated after Snowden. It is likely that Snowden was the source for this leak.

As usual, your obsession with Edward Snowden is distorting your grip on reality.

End of 2014, Wikileaks published a number of CIA documents that – although dated pre-Snowden – appeared to be originating from somewhere else. Our host called him leaker #5 in this here blog entry titled Counting the US Intelligence Community Leakers from April 20th, 2015.

Dirk Praet March 4, 2016 11:22 AM

@ Rolf Weber

These were no top secret documents.

Those CIA documents were in fact classified SECRET. And your claim was that Wikileaks had not published any documents dated after Snowden. If by that you mean documents with a date later than Snowden’s revelations, then you’re technically right but in essence trolling again because it’s irrelevant to the discussion.

If you would have wanted to make a serious contribution, you could just have asked @Bruce why he thinks the new Wikileaks docs are not from Snowden’s trove instead of just spouting your usual, and may I add irritating denials.

Rolf Weber March 4, 2016 2:07 PM

@Dirk Praet

I think I made it clear I meant “Snowden-like” top secret documents. That Snowden had access to this kind of intercepts Wikileaks publishes is clear at least since this story:

This is in no way comparable to your CIA documents to which much more people had access. And as long as there are no “Snowden-like” documents dated after Snowden leaked I will not believe in tales about a “Snowden-like” 2nd or 5th leaker. And I deny nothing, I just say it’s baseless to claim these new leaks are “obviously not from Snowden”.

Dirk Praet March 5, 2016 8:22 AM

@ Rolf Weber

I think I made it clear I meant “Snowden-like” top secret documents

Your original satement said: “None of Wikileaks so far published documents is dated after Snowden.” I believe I have adequately replied to that.

And as long as there are no “Snowden-like” documents dated after Snowden leaked I will not believe in tales about a “Snowden-like” 2nd or 5th leaker.

I think I speak for most of us here in saying that the informed opinion of a well-connected security technologist who actually had access to Snowden’s documents carries slighlty more weight than your religious belief that there is only one.

probablyIntentionallyStayingInThatEmbassy March 5, 2016 11:41 PM

@Rolf Weber
Bruce had access to the documents Snowden gave Greenwald. That’s only a fraction of the whole cache.

Someone outside of NSA has the whole list but “Wikileaks” only publishes nearly irrelevant stuff.

Just like Bruce said, governments spying on each other is something that can be considered “normal”. What is new about the government “spying” in our time is attempting to create profiles of practically everyone.

One would expect Wikileaks of all places to know this. Yet they publish the irrelevant stuff. But they themselves are likely a false flag operation.

Rolf Weber March 6, 2016 1:31 AM


  1. What is relevant depends on your goals. The published intercepts are very useful if your goal is to hurt western democracies.

  2. I don’t say (neither do I believe) that Wikileaks is in possession of the full treasure.

  3. That “attempting to create profiles of practically everyone” would be NSA’s or USG’s goal is simply nonsense.

Ken March 7, 2016 8:36 AM

“End of 2014, Wikileaks published a number of CIA documents that – although dated pre-Snowden – appeared to be originating from somewhere else.”

I’ve not read wikileaks and I don’t tend to until they start selling hardcopies at bookstores who take cash payments. But, it isn’t the needles they’re searching for, it’s the haystack.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.