Is Google an arm of the NSA?

Looking back on the NSA revelations, starting with the PRISM program, I’ve found a lot of slide-analysis that makes a number of good points.

But one slide keeps jumping out at me — very much a not-in-the-weeds slide, which makes a not-in-the-weeds point.

It’s this one. See if you can figure out why I think it’s remarkable. And see if you can guess where this discussion is going.

Remember, NSA = the Pentagon. It’s not some free-floating agency within the Executive Branch (like the staff of the National Security Advisor or something). It’s the Pentagon pure and simple, the military.


The part I find remarkable about all these slides is the header. Every PRISM slide has this at the top:


So when this X-Keyscore slide appears …


… with this text description …

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata. …

The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a “selector” in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.

… the source of the data being queried has to be the information collected and stored by these companies (once more, for your viewing pleasure):


These companies are the front-end of a spy chain that goes through the Pentagon and out to any other government agency (or person) who can get at the data — or get it given to them, like the Drug Enforcement Agency; Marcy Wheeler’s comment here.

Do click through, but let’s not get sidetracked. The fountainhead of the whole program is in the image just above. It’s these tech companies, the primary sources of the data.

Are Microsoft & Google arms of the State?

What we’re witnessing is the revelation that big-name Corporate America (and Corporate Elsewhere as well) has been folded into the U.S. government (the State) since at least 2007, though my guess is that this has been going on slowly for a long time.

Look at it this way. Blackwater provides services to the government that it can no longer completely provide for itself, at least not without some ramp-up. Blackwater guards State Dept personnel. Given all that it does, is Blackwater an arm of the State? I think you have to say Yes; it’s where the bulk of their money comes from, and the State Dept would be hosed (at least for a while) without it. This is a permanent relationship, not a temporary stopgap one.

Similarly, Booz Allen provides services to the Pentagon (sorry, NSA) that it cannot now provide for itself. Is Booz Allen (and Palantir, and …) an arm of the State? I think you have to say Yes.

Now look at Google, Microsoft, and the other tech giants on that slide. Could the Pentagon (sorry, NSA) do any of its spywork if it couldn’t drink freely from the data fountain that all these companies provide? Is Microsoft a “partner” with the Pentagon in its work of keeping an eye on the resistant and “dangerous” among you? What about the other companies? Could the Pentagon spy on you without their ongoing (permanent) active participation?

Is Google an arm of the State? I think you have to say Yes.

Is the State an arm of Microsoft & Google?

Now turn that around. What does the State provide in exchange? How about IP (intellectual property) services via other arms of the State, Homeland Security and the DoJ, just for a start?

Doubt me? Click here and see. This is a website that offered links to sports programs (note — not the programs, just links to other sites that carried them) on foreign websites like What they provided was a way to watch American football via your laptop, for example. I know, a huge bite into cable sales. (In fact, the service was only used by expats and travelers who couldn’t get the actual cable feed any other way. So yes, an almost minuscule bite into sales.)

Nevertheless, Corporate America got Homeland Security (let that sink in; Homeland Security) to take down sites like these for providing links to foreign sites that back-doored the Super Bowl telecast, and they timed the move exactly to the Super Bowl itself.

Don`t Be Evil TeeJust partners, doing the partner thing. You know, buddies watching out for buddies. What the State provided then to Corporate America (in exchange for …) was the cop on the Super Bowl Intellectual Property (IP) beat. So what do you think Google and Yahoo are getting this round?

Did you know that your government (the State) is right this minute negotiating SOPA/PIPA rights into the next big “trade” treaty, the TPP? Yep, the Congress wouldn’t pass SOPA/PIPA, so Obama will get it written into his signature (Legacy) trade agreement. Just watch, when TPP is due for a (fast-track) vote. Every corporate wet dream will be in it.

Will that be Thank You enough to Google (owner of video property freak YouTube) and other tech giants for access to their servers? Who knows? But I’ll bet one thing. This is the only part of  the quid and the quo that’s visible. You know there has to be more on offer. After all, the State is the 300-pound gorilla in any game it enters — it can provide when it wants to.

A little list

I want to close with a little list, in text form this time. These are your perps:

Microsoft — complicit since 9/11/2007 (Bush years)
Yahoo — complicit since 3/1/2008 (Bush years)

Google — complicit since 1/14/2009
Facebook — complicit since 6/3/2009
PalTalk — complicit since 12/7/2009

YouTube (a Google joint) — complicit since 9/24/2010
Skype (Update: a Microsoft joint) — complicit since 2/8/2011
AOL — complicit since 3/31/2011

Apple (that lovable anti-establishment hipster!) — complicit since Oct 2012

Your privatized Pentagon spymasters at work. Do you feel safe yet? Still think that lovable hipster loves you?


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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  • John Smith


    I see this type of comment all the time everywhere, but what is never said as in this comment is what the commentor is doing or intends to do about it.

    YOU are the reason this is happening, “evil exists when good people do nothing” sites like this one who request users to “login” via the corporate criminals are equally culpable in creating this nightmare.

    STOP promoting these corporations, you cannot have it both ways.

  • Kim_Kaufman

    How different are we from Egypt where the military owns a significant portion of private industry and commerce? Like Egypt, perhaps, if the Pentagon didn’t feel comfortable with Obama, they would remove him?

  • masaccio68

    Where can I get a “don’t be evil” shirt in brown, with a sharp collar and epaulets with braid?

  • citizen_spot


  • Brent Hull

    The president and Congress simply do not and cannot control the Pentagon.

  • RepubAnon

    Yes, indeed – and the time lag for Apple probably had more to do with Apple selling devices and software rather than Internet access. (Why hit Apple with a subpoena when all the iPhones are connected via AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.?)

  • RepubAnon

    No, the rule for patents is to take reasonable precautions against public disclosure – not to be 100% successful at keeping the spies out. This is especially true of patents in US law: once there’s a public disclosure of the innovation, you’ve got a short time to get your filing in.

    Here, the spies didn’t publicly disclose what information they obtained. No public disclosure prior to filing for a patent, no issue as to patent protection on that issue. (Patents, once issued, are published and are no longer secret.)

    Trade secrets are different – if someone puts your secret recipe for knishes on the web, it isn’t a secret anymore.

  • BeccaM

    Short answer: Yes.

    Slightly longer answer: Of course, corporations are an integral part of the plutocratic oligarchy, and keeping an eye on the proles is key to maintaining power over them.

    By the way, there are some alternative search engines available, several of which bill themselves as not tracking searches (i.e., if you search on pressure cookers and your spouse looks for backpacks, you don’t get a visit from the Feds). These include (aka IxQuick) and

  • caphillprof

    Corporations are more than able to avoid, ignore or tear up court orders.

  • caphillprof

    But how would you do that. See above.

  • caphillprof

    The corporations are wagging the government tail.

  • caphillprof

    Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about what it would take to shut down the NSA, since Acts of Congress don’t seem to work, and it’s increasingly doubtful if a presidential order would work, (particularly since we have a president who either lacks the cajones or is in on the scam). We concluded that at a minimum you would have to rendition the NSA head and most of its management to Guantanamo, then you’d have to go after the NSA contractors with a vengeance (CEO rendition probably) and finally you’d have to go after the billions being made by the enablers–Google, Yahoo, Verizon, etc.

  • Indigo

    Oh, and yes, those companies are government shills. Or is this government the shill? It’s sooo confusing!

  • Indigo

    He wasn’t all that old. :-)

  • Indigo

    It’s an octopus of a corporate critter, is what it is, and doesn’t always get all the threads of communication and spying untangled correctly, but it all comes together as a synergistic parasitic critter, nevertheless. I spotted those logos, mentioned them once on here weeks ago as evidence for my theory that the entire spill was a publicity stunt, came to join the consensus that it’s no stunt, it real, Jeeves, it’s real! and only now you bring up those logos. Okay, whatever. Clearly what’s going on is to the detriment of the public, we’ll likely be on our thankyousirs to Big Brother before the next election . . . if there is one.

  • Eric

    Please note that Apple was the last IT giant to succumb to the NSA. It may be a csoincidence, but it was *after* Steve jobs – the real old hippie who founded it – died

  • tbhull

    So what is the response? Btw posting anything like this a few years ago would get one banned from this site. Trust me, I was banned from this government site.

  • Bill_Perdue

    NSA has to be abolished and it’s directors and chief officers treated as criminals.

  • John Sage

    InfoSec and computer network email lists and newsgroups (populated by Schneier et al) have long held that the NSA has been mass-collecting, world-wide, entire TCP/IP data streams at the packet level for a long, long time — since 2000?

    Now what we’re hearing about are the user-space front ends that allow a faceless private contractor to look into those data streams and read the sexting texts your fifteen year-old daughter is exchanging with her boy friend. And don’t think that private contractors aren’t doing this sort of thing in their “spare time”.

    Is Google — and everyone else — in on this?

    You better believe it, carefully crafted non-denials notwithstanding.

  • citizen_spot

    So if these companies are supplying data to the state, does that not make all the intellectual property and granted patents of all companies invalid because they are not actually protected from government/multinational corporate spying? Even if those companies are working on private intranets, there is still access through email. Can someone who knows better set me straight on this?

  • Badgerite

    Am I the Queen of Sheba? Quid pro quo is hardly necessary in this case since the cooperation of these companies was secured by legal order. By all accounts, their cooperation was reluctant to say the least and the legal court order was required, by the companies themselves. This is not voluntary on their part. It could, after all, and probably has hurt their business. I am sure there is influence being exerted for favorable legislation, but it is more likely to be coming from campaign contributions than ‘quid pro quo’.

  • nicho

    Jeez, Louise, Google got its venture capital money from In-Q-Tel, a CIA company. What in the world did you expect?

  • Chris

    My reading of XKeyscore was that it vacuumed up HTTP headers… basically, the actual requested URL (“ plus various other bits of information that is included by your web browser. These could be vacuumed up by a man-in-the-middle without any cooperation from the destination server.

  • nicho

    Sorry for going OT, but this is pretty scary too.

    Children banned for life from talking about fracking.

    Welcome to the corporate dictatorship that used to be the USA.

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