Journalism in the Public Interest

The NSA Revelations All in One Chart

This is a plot of the NSA programs revealed in the past year according to whether they are bulk or targeted, and whether the targets of surveillance are foreign or domestic. Most of the programs fall squarely into the agency’s stated mission of foreign surveillance, but some – particularly those that are both domestic and broad-sweeping – are more controversial.

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.

For more details, read our FAQ or listen to our podcast. Also, take our quiz to test your NSA knowledge.


Source: ACLU, ProPublica Research

Program Name Description Agency Bulk? Targeted? Foreign? Domestic?
VictoryDance The NSA tested a technique for using drones to map "the Wi-Fi fingerprint of nearly every major town in Yemen." NSA
Hammerchant / Hammerstein NSA programs to spy on data sent through voice over IP calls and Virtual Private Networks. NSA
ANT catalog Various techniques - with names like IronChef and DropoutJeep - used to inject surveillance software into Apple, Cisco, Dell and other products. NSA
Cracking cellphone encryption The NSA has the capability to defeat a widely-used cellphone encryption technology. NSA
Optic Nerve A British program to bulk collect images from Yahoo webcam chats: "It would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person." NSA
Swedish-American surveillance of Russia A Swedish-American effort to spy on Russian leadership. NSA
Gilgamesh An NSA program to geolocate people's SIM cards via Predator drones. NSA
Buddy List, Address Book Spying An NSA effort to collect hundreds of millions of contact lists from email and instant messaging accounts. NSA
Hacking Anonymous A British spy unit to monitor hacktivists such as the group Anonymous. NSA
Co-Traveler/ FASCIA The NSA collected 5 billion records a day of cellphone locations worldwide. NSA
Hacking OPEC NSA and GCHQ programs to infiltrate the OPEC oil cartel NSA and GCHQ
Tracfin Tracfin amasses gigabytes of data about credit card purchases. NSA
Wellspring An NSA program to collect images from emails for facial recognition. NSA
Honey Traps A British spy effort to conduct covert Internet investigations, including sexual "honey-traps." NSA
Surveillance of 2009 U.N. Climate Change conference NSA surveillance of the 2009 U.N. Climate Change conference. NSA
Spying on Gamers The NSA and GCHQ monitored games including World of Warcraft. NSA and GCHQ
Targeting Embassies An NSA operation targeting the Italian embassy in Washington D.C. NSA
Dishfire An NSA program to collect up to 200 million text messages a day worldwide. NSA
QuantumTheory NSA programs that inject spyware onto targets' computers through so-called "man on the side" attacks. Variants include QuantumInsert, QuantumBiscuit, and QuantumSmackdown. NSA
Muscular The NSA and GCHQ have jointly operated a program to intercept data from Yahoo and Google networks. NSA and GCHQ
Prism The Prism program collects data from the servers of U.S. technology companies. NSA
Hacking Angela Merkel The NSA targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. NSA
Hacking Al Jazeera NSA hacked into Al Jazeera's internal communications system. NSA
Cellphone Location Test In 2010 and 2011, the NSA tested bulk collection of location data from Americans cellphones. NSA
Tapping Underseas Cables Companies - including BT, Vodafone, and Verizon Business - gave GCHQ access to their underseas cables. NSA
Angry Birds NSA and GCHQ efforts to intercept information transmitted by phone apps, including Angry Birds. NSA and GCHQ
Royal Concierge A GCHQ program to monitor hotel reservations for "governmental hard targets." NSA
Monitoring Privacy Software The NSA collected information about users of privacy software including visitors to two Massachussetts Institute of Technology computers. NSA
SecondDate A so-called man-in-the-middle attack for "mass exploitation" of traffic "passing through network choke points" as well as "surgical target selection." NSA
NoseySmurf, TrackerSmurf, DreamySmurf, ParanoidSmurf The Smurf programs get inside iPhones and Android devices, turning on microphones, tracking location, and managing power. NSA
Internet Metadata A program, ended in 2011, to sweep up domestic Internet metadata such as the To and From fields in emails. NSA
EgotisticalGoat and EgotisticalGiraffe The Egotistical animal programs are techniques to track users of Tor anonymizing software. NSA
Program to Discredit Militants An NSA effort to spy on targets' online sexual activity. NSA
LinkedIn Hack Engineers at a Belgian telcom were infected with malware, via a technique called QuantumInsert, when they pulled up their LinkedIn profiles. NSA
Bullrun Joint NSA and GCHQ effort to undermine and weaken cryptography standards and tools. NSA and GCHQ
Shotgiant An NSA program to break into Chinese-owned Huawei networks and products. NSA
WillowVixen An NSA technique to deploy malware by sending out emails that trick targets into clicking a malicious link. NSA
Turmoil A large network of clandestine surveillance "sensors" to collect data from satellites, cables, and microwave communications around the world. NSA
Turbine A network of active command and control servers around the world that can be used for "industrial scale exploitation." NSA
Squeaky Dolphin A British effort to monitor YouTube video views, URLS "liked" on Facebook and Blogger visits. NSA
Spying on American Muslims FBI monitored e-mail of 200 Americans including prominent Muslims such as a former Bush Administration official, two professors, an attorney and the leader of a Muslim civil rights group. NSA
Upstream The Upstream program collects communications transiting the Internet via commercial partners codenamed Fairview, Stormbrew, Blarney, and Oakstar. NSA
50,000 implants An NSA map of the 50,000 computers worldwide it has implanted with surveillance malware. NSA
G8 and G20 Summit Spying The NSA conducted surveillance during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits in Canada. NSA
Phone Metadata The well-known and controversial program to collect phone call records - aka metadata - of nearly all Americans. NSA
HappyFoot An NSA effort to use Web cookies and data from phone apps to identify users' devices and physical locations. NSA