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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

June 6, 2013 - 4:14 pm

Since the Guardian story about the NSA seizure of the Verizon phone records of millions of Americans dropped last night, the administration and its allies have been asserting that privacy wasn’t invaded because intelligence agencies didn’t listen in on those calls.

“The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls.  The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to call details, such as a telephone number or the length of a telephone call,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One today.

“The alleged FISA Court order contained in the Guardian article does not give the government authority to listen in on anyone’s telephone call, nor does it provide the government with the content of any communication or the name of any subscriber,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said in a joint statement. “As with other FISA authorities, all information the government may receive under such an order would be subject to strict limitations.”

Then, this evening, the other shoe dropped.

In what looks more and more like a revolt from within the intelligence community, the Washington Post broke a story about a secret operation that has gained steam since its inception in 2007 that lets National Security Agency and the FBI tap directly into the servers of nine U.S. Internet companies with access to audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs.

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

And this revelation is thanks to a whistleblower:

Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

UPDATES: Internet companies denied they give the government direct access to their servers:

Google, the Internet’s largest search provider, said that, despite previous reports that it had forged a “back door” for the government, it had never provided any such access to user data.

Microsoft said it does not voluntarily participate in any government data collection and only complies “with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers.”

“We have never heard of PRISM,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”

Asked whether Apple joined the NSA-FBI data collection program, Apple declined to comment beyond its brief statement.

The Washington Post reported that Apple held out for more than five years after PRISM enlisted its first corporate partner, in May 2007, for “unknown reasons.”

That would put the compliance of Apple after the death of Steve Jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the phone-tracking extended beyond Verizon to AT&T and Sprint as well as credit-card companies.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement slamming both the Guardian and Washington Post, saying “the unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  They contain numerous inaccuracies.

Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States.  It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.

Activities authorized by Section 702 are subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. They involve extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons.

Section 702 was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
This, by the way, is a huge scoop by WaPo. How's it feel , guys, to act like real journalists, again? You could get used to this, I bet.

It occurs to me, that this is why this administration has been pursuing leakers so aggressively. They have a lot to hide.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, Ivan--Snoopy-- Power at NSA can now correlate "know nothing" Senator Wiener's phone number with Trixie's phone number at Tender Loving Massage and the NSA at the White Hlouse can leak Senator "Know nothing's" telephone sex escapades to the Washington Post during his reelection campaign. Of course, the administration will just say we know nothing, we see nothing, we hear nothing. It's all good.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It’s reasonable to argue that Bush went too far or that he started programs and initiatives that are too easily twisted by full blown fascists like the current president.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (40)
All Comments   (40)
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I'd love to know if while rummaging through our phones, emails, google clicks etc. if our rulers found anything and how much all this cost.

Reminds me of the TSA (now with 15,000 supervisors). I have never heard one story about a terrorist being stopped. Not one. Have you?

This is costly monetarily and intrusive beyond belief, and what is worse is I'm doubtful it will stop. They'll just take a turn in another direction and do a better job of hiding their actions against their citizens. It is a great learning moment for the left.

Meanwhile the congress has no will or ability to do anything. The agencies/bureaus/departments have no oversight and are headed up by activist left wing progressives who now run this country and they are significantly more powerful than these mere congressmen and judges. This president-king knows it and uses them to his advantage at every turn and leaves no finger prints.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Funny thing with billions they spent on snooping on millions, they couldn't not misspell a known terrorist's name.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All this news about excessive intelligence gathering has suddenly popped up from two very left-wing sources, the Guardian and the Washington Times.

Do you think this is being done to deflect attention from the other scandals? Epecially the IRS targeting of conservatives, and people who adopt babies apparently.

Of course. This NSA stuff can always be blamed on the Patriot Act and by extension, Bush. Even though protests of the Patriot Act dried up as soon as "their guy" got in office, and sure 0bama doubled down on privacy abuses and no one on the left really cares.

In fact no one on the left cares about any of these scandals. Its all about managing the narrative. Deflect attention from 0bama.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You probably have a point. It does keep the tea party socons vascilating from one scandal and conspiracy to another in a matter of hours and days.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
didn't help boston, of course the bombers espoused jihad .
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Are you kidding ?
They wouldn't check the activities of two Chechen Muslims, that would be profiling !!!
NRA types on the other side...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have authored several papers critical of Obama. The last: "Obama and the Destruction of America" (Scribd.com) was released several months ago. During the process my computer was constantly under attack. After completion, the first time I attempted to submit it for review; upon hitting send , the screen went absolutely black. It was three days before I finally got it rebooted. I had learned to save every day's progress on a flash drive because of inexplicable deletions that would occur while the computer was offline. Because of this, I was able to reconstitute the file. I have a spyware search engine that runs constantly. Several days ago it detected over 800. My contact list is being deleted on a daily basis. I have to manually refer to a printed address list in order to communicate. Censorship and suppression of dissent is a primary goal of this administration. And, Yes, I'm with Verizon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Putting all your tinfoil hats behind a leaded closest dorr when you're penning your literary works of the President should take care of your computer invaders.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You need to have someone with a clue look at your computer. What you've described sounds like malware downloaded from sketchy sites that you visit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wow.
I woke up in a bad sci-fi book.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The National Socialist Democratic Action Party is alive and well and run from the WH. All they seem to have done is substitute Tea Party and Anti-Abortion for the Jews. One could also note, truthfully, that there are a lot of Jews working for 0 just as there were lots of Jews working for Lenin. Those are historical facts.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Couples nicely with the facial recognition requirement buried in the amnesty bill. Get photographed by a drone or other surveillance camera protesting something the government does, or attending a TEA party rally, or talking to the wrong person and they can find your IP address, where you live, what you say, who you say it to, what you read. . . nice.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Get rid of any form of "whistleblower' protections for any national security department, agency or unit! This person(s) being called a whisleblower should be charged with 18 USC § 798. Disclosure of classified information is a crime and even moreso at the level of classification this or these documents or information was assigned! Time to start locking up all those person in national security/intelligence positions who have become politicized and have no regards for protection of classified information.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well said! And in typical Gestapo fashion too!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well thank you Paleo Conservative! Left to you for our national security we'd have no reasonablly peaceful and free nation. You'd be left to complain about your new president Putin who would open the gates for translocation of half the Muslim world to the old U.S. just for giggles. What did you major in? Fashion design?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Where do you think the IRS got the detail on who/which tea partiers to audit/harass? The NSA collects data and creates call web maps and the IRS uses those web maps to see who the, for example, the Kentucky Tea Party head talks to on the 'phone. Any multiple contact, who the IRS shows had a million dollar income over the past 5 years, gets audited.
Consider the integrity of the folks involved! You got Chicago thugs like Jarret, Axelrod, Ploufe, Emanuel and paragons like Geitner and Holder! You know they were misusing US security data!
Next, consider how the criminal bad guys monetized this secret data. Beyond call webs, there has to be an ability to record the actual contact of specific calls. How much money could you make if you knew what company Buffet would buy next or what the sex of the British heir was?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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