The NSA didn’t know it was already sitting on a “goldmine” of data on one of its targets until one of its analysts discovered it by “sheer luck,” according to an internal newsletter entry leaked by Edward Snowden.
The article, dated March 23, 2011, was written by a signals development analyst in SIDtoday, an NSA in-house newsletter. He explains how he discovered the contact and personal information for over 10,000 people, as well as some 900 account login details, after “a ton of hard work,” according to reports from The Intercept and teleSUR.
“By sheer luck (and a ton of hard work), I discovered an important new access to an existing target and am working with TAO to leverage a new mission capability,” the analyst wrote to colleagues. TAO refers to Tailored Access Operations, an NSA hacking team which had collected the 900 usernames and passcodes.
The “existing target” was Petróleos de Venezuela, a Venezuelan state oil company also referred to as PDVSA.
Matthew Green, a Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute professor, told The Intercept it was “interesting” that the analyst used the word “discovered” because it means that either the NSA “didn’t realize” it had been collecting PDVSA’s information or that, perhaps, there had been a bureaucratic miscommunication on the subject.
“They’re capturing so much information from their cable taps that even the NSA analysts don’t know what they’ve got,” Green said. […]