May 18-19, 2016 -- Newly-released Snowden disclosures verify NSA's FIRSTFRUIT database

publication date: May 18, 2016
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May 18-19, 2016 -- Newly-released Snowden disclosures verify NSA's FIRSTFRUIT database

The latest tranche of documents liberated from the National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden contains verification of an NSA journalist surveillance system first reported by WMR on December 28, 2005.

Our original report stated: "
The journalist surveillance program, code named 'Firstfruits,' was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004 and was authorized by then-DCI Porter Goss. Firstfruits was authorized as part of a DCI 'Countering Denial and Deception' program responsible to an entity known as the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC) . . . Firstfruits was a database that contained both the articles and the transcripts of telephone and other communications of particular Washington journalists known to report on sensitive U.S. intelligence activities, particularly those involving NSA. According to NSA sources, the targeted journalists included author James Bamford, the New York Times' James Risen, the Washington Post's Vernon Loeb, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, the Washington Times' Bill Gertz, UPI's John C. K. Daly, and this editor [Wayne Madsen], who has written about NSA for The Village Voice, CAQ, Intelligence Online, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)."


Above: Excerpt on FIRSTFRUIT from "SID Today." Part of tranche of NSA documents revealed by Edward Snowden.

An NSA "SID Today" newsletter, issued by the agency's Signals Intelligence Division (SID) onApril 18, 2004 and classified TOP SECRET//SI/TK//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL, states: "Intelligence Security Issues also maintains the FIRSTFRUIT Foreign Knowledge Database, which currently contains over 5,000 insecurity-related records. This is a SIGINT database that is the Intelligence Community's prototype. FIRSTFRUIT combines all
SIGINT-related information--Espionage Damage Assessments, Cryptologic Insecurities (Media/Books, etc.), Unauthorized Disclosures, Demarches, and Liaison exchanges--into one database."

WMR reported that not only did FIRSTFRUIT contain news clippings of articles about NSA but also the called and received phone numbers, email addresses, and other details of journalists contained in the database.


Above: Portion of a leaked NSA document leaked to WMR in 2005 that referred to the NSA journalist surveillance program FIRSTFRUITS.

At the time of WMR's report in 2005, a number of journalists scoffed at the notion that NSA would be keeping tabs on journalists and even questioned whether FIRSTFRUIT was a mere invention. But once again, WMR's initial and follow-on reports about FIRSTFRUIT have borne fruit -- albeit ten years later -- and the doubters about the existence of such a system can now dine on their ample servings of crow.

Note: WMR's NSA Leak Library has been updated with the newly-released NSA documents.

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