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.