All the images were apparently taken with smartphones. A photo taken in January 2012 is especially risqué: It shows a former senior government official of a foreign country who, according to the NSA, is relaxing on his couch in front of a TV set and taking pictures of himself — with his iPhone. To protect the person’s privacy, SPIEGEL has chosen not to reveal his name or any other details.
The access to such material varies, but much of it passes through an NSA department responsible for customized surveillance operations against high-interest targets. One of the US agents’ tools is the use of backup files established by smartphones. According to one NSA document, these files contain the kind of information that is of particular interest to analysts, such as lists of contacts, call logs and drafts of text messages. To sort out such data, the analysts don’t even require access to the iPhone itself, the document indicates. The department merely needs to infiltrate the target’s computer, with which the smartphone is synchronized, in advance.