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.
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 Justin.tv. 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.
Just 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?
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