A while ago I asked, “Are Google and Microsoft arms of the State” and part of the NSA? The answer is yes, of course, just like GE, Lockheed and Booz Allen. (And never forget, the NSA is a part of the Pentagon, and not some White House agency.)
There’s even more evidence of that today, thanks to Edward Snowden, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, the latter two writing at the Washington Post.
Here’s Gellman and Soltani (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):
NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say
The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.
By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.
The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.
The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process. The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies.
I can’t print the whole thing, though I’d like to. Do click through. I can print the slide that goes with it though.
This is from Edward Snowden’s cache. It’s labeled “Google Cloud Exploitation.”
Note to Mr. & Ms. “I’m not a terrorist” America. Do you store anything on the Cloud? Anything you’d care not to have pawed through? Remember, it’s not just terror they’re looking for. Like most of the world, NSA contractors are looking for porn as well. Think they’re finding it? Think those private (curated) collections of theirs are making the rounds?
What makes this “legal”?
What makes this legal is that it takes place overseas, away from American laws and jurisdiction (or so they seem to think).
Intercepting communications overseas has clear advantages for the NSA, with looser restrictions and less oversight. NSA documents about the effort refer directly to “full take,” “bulk access” and “high volume” operations on Yahoo and Google networks. Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.
“Allowed to presume” has “permission to steal” written all over it. This is the State at work, in all its public-private glory. This is what “collect it all” means in practice. Think Obama will stop this? Think he wants to?
Welcome to the new normal.
What you can do
There are three very powerful things you can do:
1. Get yourself — and your company — off of the Cloud as soon as you go to work. I mean it. Anyone’s Cloud. There’s an excellent business reason for doing this.
The U.S. government is engaged in widespread industrial spying and information trading. As a wise man said (though not about NSA spying), if you’re not the customer, you’re the product.
2. Refuse to buy Google and Yahoo’s protestations of innocence and outrage.
Ask yourself this: If the revelations were never made public, and if Google or Yahoo were offered juicy government contracts as payback, what would they do — complain or go along?
Then ask this: If Google and Yahoo knew about this all along, would they admit the truth today, or lie?
They may be guilty or innocent. You will never know. But they are outraged. And what outrages them is the revelation and the damage to their brand. They spent millions creating the myth of the google, one of the good guys, your friendly chaperon to the future of your entertainment dreams — the google who loves you and wants you to be happy (as long as you pay at the counter).
But they don’t love you. At the very top (where most of the money goes), you’re just a source of loot, just like you’re a source of loot to Sheldon Adelson, despite how gorgeous The Venetian Hotel is. The Venetian is not a sign of anyone’s love for you, and neither is Android.
Google and Yahoo are not the good guys and they never were; they’re billionaire-controlled companies, just like GE, just like Lockheed, run by the rich for their own power and glory. (I’ll have more about the rich soon. They are not pretty people.)
3. Spread doubt about their innocence among every one of your friends. Why? The only way to punish them for acting as the vacuum cleaner for the NSA is to take away their business and their brand. Go for it. Let them prove their innocence, not be presumed to have it.
This stuff can be stopped, but it will take citizen action, citizen outrage, and a citizen-inflicted price for their behavior. The time for asking, or whining, is long past. You can make them pay that price, if you choose to. But you have to choose to.
UPDATE: Humorist Matt Filipowicz has a good “righteous rant” about this NSA-Google story on his podcast. I’ve embedded the full show below, but you can scrub to the NSA rant at 7:05. Nicely done:
The second guest (at 37:05) is Lee Fang, one of the best investigative reporters working today. He looks at for-hire academics carrying right-wing water by testifying (for pay) at congressional hearings. Amazing story. Enjoy.
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