British Spies and NSA Nabbed Private Yahoo! IM Nude Photos: Optic Nerve

Here’s our Pulitzer-nominated Ted Rall on the latest Edward Snowden revelation. NSA and British spies have been nabbing nude stills from so-called private Yahoo IMs. It’s the formerly top secret Optic Nerve project. And you thought PRISM was scary. Original Ted Rall commentary for aNewDomain. — Brought to you once again by Edward Snowden and The Guardian, our Ted Rall has yet another NSA bombshell for you. The formerly-secret project now outed is called Optic Nerve. Here’s a Ted Rall cartoon and his signature commentary — exclusive to aNewDomain.

From 2008 to 2010 — and, for all we know, it’s even bigger and more intrusive than we so far know — the British GCHQ intelligence agency, the UK equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), ran a secret program called Optic Nerve. And the NSA helped out with Optic Nerve, we now know.

Optic Nerve intercepted and stored still images from video chats between millions of users on Yahoo!’s Instant Messenger video chat service. This was done surreptitiously and without Yahoo’s cooperation, say Yahoo! execs. Optic Nerve, we now learn, was originally designed to use facial recognition software to track enemies of the state.

Ah, but the best-laid plans of mice and consenting men and women and all that lead to this … It turns out that a lot of people use Yahoo! to, well, send nude IMs to each other. I am putting it politely.

According to this latest revelation from NSA whistleblower Snowden — now in hiding from U.S. authorities — between three percent and 11 percent of all webcam images grabbed by GCHQ and the NSA from the Yahoo! IM service were what the agencies termed “undesirable nudity.”

What is undesirable nudity?

The government did not explain what was undesirable. Was it the content of the nudity, or the nudity itself?

“Unfortunately, it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person,” one document reads. It continues:

Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears [to] sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”

This is ancient news straight out of 1995. If this really comes as a surprise to anyone on Optic Nerve, maybe the spooks need to get out more. In any event, the idea that these high-tech hackers might try to use their ill-gotten amateur porn to protect us from terrorism prompted the following cartoon.


For, I’m Ted Rall.

Based in New York, Ted Rall is a nationally-syndicated columnist, editorial cartoonist and war correspondent who specializes in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The author of 17 books, most-recently published The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt, Rall is twice the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Follow him @TedRall, check out his Facebook fan page and definitely follow his Google+ stream here. Ted’s upcoming book After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan is due out in 2014.


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