A glimpse into ANCHORY, NSA's intelligence catalog database

System culls Reuters, State Dept cables, other intelligence agency reports
Written by Tom Nash
Edited by Tom Nash

Back when the National Security Agency still measured data in megabytes rather than by the square mile of servers, the agency took it upon itself to catalogue the output of a newswire service and publications of the wider intelligence community. One NSA database called ANCHORY catalogs intelligence analysis and reports from the CIA, State Department and Defense Intelligence Agency, plus Reuters for good measure.

According to March 1993 and April 2000 memos released to MuckRock user Jason Gulledge, the ANCHORY system “provides timely retrieval of textual data by keyword and other relevant information on a 24-hours per day, 7 day per week basis.”

ANCHORY was just one database codename revealed in the wake of Edward Snowden's NSA leaks. The database name was listed on a number of LinkedIn profiles for intelligence analysts based in Maryland.

The memos indicate that the ANCHORY system was designed to hold three years of “full text reports written by NSA, CIA, DIA, State and Foreign Broadcast Information System, as well as Reuters News Service, Cryptologic Intelligence Reports and precis of hard copy reports.”

The documents also makes reference to a Multimedia Access User Interface, but is otherwise heavily redacted. The total size of the database was apparently capped at 16 gigabytes.

The ANCHORY documents were released as part of Gulledge’s Freedom of Information request to the NSA for information on several programs. NSA FOIA officer Pamela Phillips rejected Gulledge's request for a fee waiver and submitted that his request was too broad for other documents to be retrieved.

MuckRock is working with Gulledge on an appeal to the NSA for additional documents on ANCHORY and the other intelligence databases cited in his request.

Want to find out more about how the NSA gathers and stores intelligence data? Register for a MuckRock account today and file a public records request of your own, starting at just $20 for five requests.