Title: Sharing Communications Data Across the Intelligence Community – Decision Memorandum
Release Date: 2014-08-25
Document Date: 2004-11-23
Description: This 23 November 2004 decision memorandum from then-NSA Director Keith Alexander gives the initial go-ahead for the agency’s ICREACH system: see the Intercept article The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google, 25 August 2014.
MEMORANDUM FOR THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
SUBJECT: (U//FOUO) Sharing Communications Metadata Across the Intelligence
Community -DECISION MEMORANDUM
PURPOSE: (U//FOUO) To request the Director National Intelligence establish a U.S.
Intelligence Community-wide communications metadata sharing structure; to recommend
that the National Security Agency establish this structure along with appropriate query
tools, training and oversight; and, that Director, NSA be designated the IC Executive
Agent for IC-wide communications metadata.
BACKGROUND: (S//NF) Post 911, the IC has increased its needs for communications
metadata'. Currently, NSA collects, processes and stores vast amounts of
communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets. This SIGINT
information often includes the originator and recipient(s) identifiers, as well as the date,
time and duration of the transaction and, in some cases, locations of targets.
(S//NF) CIA, FBI, DIA and DEA also have access to communications transaction data
from their unique sources. These organizations, to include NSA, have benefited from
sharing this data through the CRISSCROSS/PROTON program since 1999. Presently,
NSA pushes roughly 60 million records per day (limited to telephony only) to PROTON,
resulting in over 30% of the total PROTON data set.
(S//NF) While the PROTON program has had many notable successes over the years,
today’s environment requires that the IC implement more holistic information sharing
and collaboration. In order to ensure the efficient and effective sharing of many millions
of new minimized communications metadata records daily, the IC must have a new
sharing/collaboration structure that is scaleable to the larger IC and is capable of much
greater volume of data.
(S//NF) NSA stands alone in conducting metadata analysis on a large scale and as a
result, our tools and methodologies, as well as the infrastructure employed, are well
tested and have been proven efficient and effective over time. We already extensively
1 *(C) Communications metadata refers to structured “data about data”: it includes all information
associated with, but not including content, and includes any data used by a network, service or application
to facilitate routing or handling of a communication or to render content in the intended format; it includes,
but is not limited to, dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information and data in support of various
network management activities (e.g. billing, authentication or tracking of communicants).
Derived From: NSA/CSSM 1-52
Declassify On: 20290325
share metadata internally within the NSA/CSS extended enterprise and with our second
(S//NF) Under this proposal, IC partners would have access through NSA’s
GLOBALREACH (the IC version will be called ICREACH) service to more than 50
existing NSA/CSS metadata fields contained in trillions of records as well as other IC
Agency communications metadata (predominantly resident today in PROTON). NSA’s
throughput to ICREACH would dwarf the volume of NSA’s present contributions to
PROTON, as well as the input of all other IC contributors. Those fields revealing
sources and methods or sensitive foreign relationships within metadata records would not
be shared. Moreover, NSA is preparing to include DNI (digital network intelligence)
data in GLOBALREACH/ICREACH, a change that would also exponentially increase
NSA’s contributions to the IC’s communications metadata structure.
DISCUSSION: (S//NF) NSA proposes that the DNI establish a new IC-wide
communications metadata structure with requisite tools, training and intelligence
oversight. This structure will consist of data repositories at various IC Agencies all
interlinked through a web based analytic query structure via JWICS whereby IC
personnel can make one query to access all sharable communications metadata. This
structure will also allow IC personnel to choose the data they wish to query and the set of
tools they desire to display and analyze the data.
(S//NF) This structure will allow unprecedented volumes of communications metadata to
be shared and analyzed. This structure will use the Intelligence Community Shared
Information Space (ICSIS) carved out in Intelink and protected by community PKI access
authorization. Having such a structure will provide the IC with access to NSA/CSS and
other IC-element metadata, as well as the internal ‘federated query’ that NSA analysts
use to correlate these information elements and enrich the results with knowledge from
our analytic reference files and other collaboration. This proposal will address existing
IC-wide stated needs for additional NSA communications metadata elements and take the
IC to an unprecedented level of information sharing.
(S//NF) This initiative is in keeping with the 9/11 and President’s WMD Commissions’
recommendations on information sharing, the President’s various Executive Orders
related to information sharing, and your own announced goals on information sharing and
(S) This initiative was intended to facilitate a new level of sharing information across the
IC for situational awareness, lead information, adversary analysis, and targeting and will
add to the process of greater information sharing across the IC.
RECOMMENDATION: (S//NF) I believe the time is right to designate an IC Executive
Agency for sharing communications metadata as an integral part of a greater IC sharing
environment. SIGINT metadata is a vast, rich source of information to build community
collaboration and target knowledge and the emerging intelligence based target social
network analysis discipline. NSA is prepared to accept this role and build the
communications metadata coalition the IC needs for both current target tracking and
future threat warning.
(S//NF) To this end, my staffs have been meeting with CIA, DIA, FBI and DEA
metadata users and technical experts to work out the details of this proposal. Once
approved, we will be ready to implement this structure with a roll out to these agencies
within a few months followed by the greater IC within a year.
(U//FOUO) Establish an IC-wide communications metadata structure:
(U//FOUO) Designate DIRNSA/CHCSS as the U.S. IC Executive Agent for
(C) My POC for this action
Support, Signals Intelligence Directorate,
Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and
KEITH B. ALEXANDER
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
Director, NSA/Chief, CSS