A new release of Snowden's leaked NSA docs detail RAMPART-A, through which the NSA gives foreign governments the ability to conduct mass surveillance against their own populations in exchange for NSA access to their communications. RAMPART-A, is spread across 13 sites, accesses three terabytes/second from 70 cables and networks. It cost US taxpayers $170M between 2011 and 2013, allocated through the NSA's "black budget."
The NSA makes its foreign partners promise not to spy on the USA using its equipment and in return, agrees not to spy on its partners' populations (with "exceptions"). However, as was documented in Glenn Greenwald's indispensable No Place to Hide, the NSA has a simple trick for circumventing any promises not to spy on its partners' populations.
"No Place to Hide" revealed a list of 33 "third party" countries that assist the NSA in conducting mass surveillance, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Singapore, Ethiopia, and 15 EU member states. These countries do not allow the NSA to spy on their own countries, but the NSA exploits a loophole to conduct this surveillance anyway: it will strike an agreement with Country A, on one end of a high-speed cable not to spy on it population, and with Country B, on the other end of the cable, not to spy on its population, but will conduct mass surveillance of Country A's communications from Country B and vice-versa.
How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet [Ryan Gallagher/The Intercept]