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Greenwald: NSA Mining Data from Google, Facebook, Apple…

The Bush-Obama era.NSA grabs from giant tech firms Google, Facebook, Apple.

The Bush-Obama era.
NSA grabs from giant tech firms Google, Facebook, Apple.

Mr. Obama clearly had no intention of revealing this eavesdropping, just as he would not have acknowledged the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, had it not been reported in the press. Even then, it took him more than a year and a half to acknowledge the killing, and he is still keeping secret the protocol by which he makes such decisions. – President Obama’s Dragnet [New York Times]

AS THE week ends we find out more information from Glenn Greenwald, along with Ewan MacAskill, that goes well beyond the NSA accessing phone companies. Their access now includes tech giants like Apple, to search engine behemoth Google, as well as social media leader Facebook, in the biggest privacy grab in United States history.

The Washington Post is reporting that nine tech companies have had data mined from their servers without their knowledge.

Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

From the Guardian:

The NSA secret program.

The NSA secret program.

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Today, the New York Times takes a look at Glenn Greenwald who broke the story on the NSA this week.

[...] with this leak about the extremely confidential legal apparatus supporting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he has lifted the veil on some of the government’s most closely held secrets.

The leak, he said, came from “a reader of mine” who was comfortable working with him. The source, Mr. Greenwald said, “knew the views that I had and had an expectation of how I would display them.”

Glenn Greenwald has one purpose, as I see it, which is to expose what people are doing that is in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution, and he doesn’t care who gets in the way. A former roommate and also a lawyer quoted in the piece said of Glenn, “he is just as willing to make enemies of anybody.” I’ve had several conversations with Glenn over the years, and though I don’t know him well on a personal basis, I think that’s a perfect characterization from what I know of him.

Pissing off people is what good political writers do when we’re telling truths that people in authority don’t want anyone to know or hear. Of course, in Greenwald’s case exposing the secret NSA data mining grab, it goes well beyond your average political story. What Glenn did this week is blow the lid off of what it means to live in 21st century America.

The NSA overreach is legal due to the Patriot Act that was begun under George W. Bush, then continued with Barack Obama, with his approval and backing. Bush and Obama are kindred presidential spirits, which should make Democrats very uncomfortable, but, unfortunately, it won’t.

If you saw or heard Roberts Gibbs on Thursday or Senator Diane Feinstein talking with Andrea Mitchell, listened to a sound bite from Rep. Nancy Pelosi after the NSA story broke, they’re contending that because it’s legal under the Patriot Act there’s nothing to see here. That’s because the assault on our privacy is being done by a Democrat.

Our political leaders are small, scared people who have proven when they’re given power they’ll abuse it and then hide what they’re doing and how they’re doing it from the voters, whom they treat like children, even when we’re the ones who entrusted them to protect our Constitution.

Privacy, the constitution and liberties, they’re all so 20th century now.

The Patriot Act should be repealed.

Bush-Obama photo via Huffington Post.

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13 Responses to Greenwald: NSA Mining Data from Google, Facebook, Apple…

  1. ladywalker68 June 7, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    LOL!!! I LOVE the photo. Well done! That made my night. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Art Pronin June 7, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    amen!

  3. ladywalker68 June 7, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    So for the last 13 years, we have been under the rule of George W. Barack Obushma. ;)

    Adding, spot on analysis, as usual, Taylor, especially this:

    “Our political leaders are small, scared people who have proven when they’re given power they’ll abuse it and then hide what they’re doing and how they’re doing it from the voters, whom they treat like children, even when we’re the ones who entrusted them to protect our Constitution.

    Privacy, the constitution and liberties, they’re all so 20th century now.

    The Patriot Act should be repealed.”

    As Art said: AMEN!!!

  4. mjsmith June 7, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    The main thing we know about these stories about the Obama administration is, that the real issue is the politicians trying to get explanations and answers for these actions are at fault. According to President Obama and his team. I did notice that on this one they are going back to blaming Bush, again. How sad.
    From my understanding this story was first published in the UK paper, The Guardian. Interesting that the reporter is from NBC and they did not reveal this story first. I guess they are serious about not being involved with breaking news.

    • Ga6thDem June 7, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      The politicians supposedly trying to get answers did not care one iota when George W. Bush was doing the same thing. The GOP sat around with their thumbs up their butts and screamed about how George W. Bush had to do it to “keep us safe” and now that they think they are the ones being profiled, they are screaming. The GOP really has no core beliefs because if they thought this stuff was so bad why didn’t they do it with Bush? Not a peep from these same people so their sanctimonious lectures fall on deaf ears.

      • PeggySue June 7, 2013 at 10:21 am #

        Absolutely agree. The GOP hypocrisy on this issue, all the wails and howls, is beyond laughable. They set these programs into motion and there wasn’t a peep of dissent.

        That doesn’t let Obama off the hook. The man promised transparency, a 180 in mindset and follow through. Didn’t happen.

        Color me suspicious but I wonder about the timing on all these revelations, the pileup of ‘leaks,’ turning into a deluge. The who, what and why is something the public doesn’t know. I’m thinking there’s a power play going on behind the velvet curtains. POTUS is under siege. However, he brought this on himself, saying one thing, doing something entirely different. The Summer of Scandal is upon us.

        Could get interesting.

  5. guyski June 7, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Not good for the average American, but good news for those terrorists. You have a system that loses known/suspected terrorist; a system that cannot keep up to date terror watch lists, a system that cannot process information about a terroist suspect given by a foreign country (Boston bomber): etc.

    Now throw in gazillion pieces of information collected instantaneously. What is the net result? There is probably more of a chance of having the full force of the government descend on two teenage girls chatting/messaging about going to a Justin Bieber concert, than any terrorist plot getting foiled. ;)

    • ladywalker68 June 7, 2013 at 8:17 am #

      Absolutely true. Be careful Tweeting “Justin is Da Bomb!”

  6. Joyce Arnold June 7, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Exhaustion, or maybe just cynicism, warning hereby provided for what follows.

    Very good this is being revealed. Very interesting that people have been talking and writing and pointing to what was happening for quite some time now, with little or fleeting attention. But then, one group pointing out “tracking” problems was Occupy Wall Street, and they just didn’t meet the “let’s take this seriously” level. Nor did those investigating and reporting on things like the NSA’s construction of the Utah “biggest spy center” or the “world’s fastest computer” and its facility in Tennessee. Or the growing domestic use of drones. And more.

    Now the totally expected flip flopping of Electeds, and others, in the “if my guy does it, it’s fine; if not-my-guy does it, it’s bad” has, of course, shown up, in a bipartisan way. Accompanied by, “oops, this is making headlines so even though it’s my guy, I’d better be outraged for a while. And maybe form a committee to hold public hearings so I can make impassioned speeches about loving America and our freedoms.”

    Greenwald is not new to reporting on this kind of stuff, and he’s had lots of good company. Thank goodness what he, and others, have found is finally getting some attention. It probably won’t last more than a few more days, but at least it’s finally reached the national attention level.

  7. Lake Lady June 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Looks like there might be some kind of revolt going on in our spy community.

  8. Cujo359 June 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Thanks to obligations I took on a long time ago, I’m unable to discuss some things I just saw in the Guardian. Nevertheless. this new revelation is not all that surprising. The denials from the tech companies involved, which are not classified, seem to be couched in the usual “non-denial denial” style of modern PR. Still, I can visualize ways of getting that information without their permission, so maybe what they say is true.

    So there are lots of questions.

    Even the idea that the US government could try obtain this information without a court order should be troubling to US citizens. The data obtained from Verizon can be used to determine relationships between some people, who are being watched from some reason, and others. That sort of information can be used to find criminals like our current boogeymen, the “terrorists” (meaning Islamic terrorists exclusively, near as I can tell), or it can be used to find the support networks of political opponents. That’s why it’s the sort of information that should only be available via court order.

    Yes, the Patriot Act should be abolished. It should never have been passed in the first place. The Telecommunications Act should be vastly amended, too, and real safeguards need to be put in place to ensure the powers in it aren’t abused. The FISA court was mostly a rubber stamp, and I can’t believe that all those cases would have looked legitimate to a skeptical court no matter how careful the FBI was in obtaining them.

    Those who maintain there’s really nothing new here are mostly right – it’s been going on for a long time, and plenty of us saw it coming. Now we know, and the question is what we are going to do about it?

    • Cujo359 June 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

      Almost forgot: Shane Harris discusses how all that “metadata” can be used,and other issues related to the phone company information NSA obtains.

      • newdealdem1 June 8, 2013 at 1:48 am #

        Shane Harris gets it right.

        I can post here about my own experience as a forensic auditor and the powerful data mining software I and my colleagues have used since 1997 thanks to the Canadians who produced ACL http://www.acl.com/

        I have used it at a minimum to select a sample of transactions to audit; I have used it to find irregularities or mathematical patterns in transactions that could indicate control weaknesses or fraud.

        And I have used it to find correlations (relationships) between A and B. As in If A is present than B happens (absent any “logical fallacy”) which is what the Verizon data mining is all about.

        Using known phone numbers of suspected “enemies” of the US and matching them with the data collected from Verizon and then to the corresponding phone numbers that these “enemies” called in order to make a connection to someone in the US who has had contact with the “enemy” and then track that person in the US to ascertain their relationship to the suspect (and if there has been some sort of plot to harm Americans).

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong