Interviewer: What are some of the big surveillance programs that are active today and how do international partners aid the NSA?Recall that Five Eyes is the US, UK, Canada, Australia and NZ.
Snowden: In some cases, the so-called Five Eye Partners go beyond what NSA itself does. For instance, the UK's General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has a system called TEMPORA. TEMPORA is the signals intelligence community's first "full-take" Internet buffer that doesn't care about content type and pays only marginal attention to the Human Rights Act. It snarfs everything, in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit. Right now the buffer can hold three days of traffic, but that's being improved. Three days may not sound like much, but remember that that's not metadata. "Full-take" means it doesn't miss anything, and ingests the entirety of each circuit's capacity. If you send a single ICMP packet and it routes through the UK, we get it. If you download something and the CDN (Content Delivery Network) happens to serve from the UK, we get it. If your sick daughter's medical records get processed at a London call center … well, you get the idea.
Interviewer: Is there a way of circumventing that?
Snowden: As a general rule, so long as you have any choice at all, you should never route through or peer with the UK under any circumstances. Their fibers are radioactive, and even the Queen's selfies to the pool boy get logged.
Interviewer: Do the NSA and its partners across the globe do full dragnet data collection for telephone calls, text and data?
Snowden: Yes, but how much they get depends on the capabilities of the individual collection sites -- i.e., some circuits have fat pipes but tiny collection systems, so they have to be selective. This is more of a problem for overseas collection sites than domestic ones, which is what makes domestic collection so terrifying. NSA isn't limited by power, space and cooling PSC constraints.
Speculation: In the tent, eventually NSA kits up GCSB to be able to do what GCHQ can do. It'll be lower priority as we're a rump loop of the cable at the end of the world whereas Britain's pretty central. But we'll get there. Out of the tent, I'd expect NSA would stick a box at the Australian or US termination ends of our cables and start doing it faster.