After the U.K- based Guardian newspaper revealed a highly classified court order giving the NSA the right to see all the phone records on Verizon’s customers, a new report by the Washington Post concludes that the two agencies’ eavesdropping goes a lot deeper.
The Washington Post revealed that the NSA along with the FBI are gaining Internet intelligence data by going directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S.-based Internet companies, which includes the largest social networking site, Facebook. More alarmingly, many of the nine companies told the Washington Post that they “had no knowledge of the program”.
These new revelations that the NSA is tapping directly into the central servers of the leading Internet companies is very unnerving to many elected officials who did not know about the program, and now many are demanding to know more about the NSA and FBI’s methods of obtaining on-line records on U.S. citizens. Major media outlets across the globe are also seeking to understand just how deep the program goes and if what was revealed by the Washington Post is in total or only part of a much larger operation.
What makes the new development even more controversial than the Verizon secret court order, is that we know the NSA and FBI have obtained both video and audio chats through programs like Skype, Google, YouTube and Facebook. Some of the data gathered were photographs and untold amounts of other data from Yahoo and Google such as e-mails and written documents of all sorts.
It was also revealed that the agencies have connection logs giving their analysts the ability to track a specific target and then trace all of his or her connections they have on the Internet through their social media accounts and through their E-mail addresses they have stored.
All of the latest knowledge was obtained from a secret document the Washington Post revealed in an article on June 6, 2013. Furthermore, this program, which is code-named “PRISM” had not been made public until the recent Washington Post report. This latest disclosure backs up information of a former top-level NSA agent by the name of William ‘Bill’ Binney. Binney claimed that he was fed up with the NSA’s actions and became an open whistle-blower revealing the fact that the NSA was building a super sized data processing center that would store virtually all E-mails and other such information circulating on the Internet, which includes all elected officials.
It is common knowledge that the NSA’s purpose is to gather intelligence done over any kind of electronic messaging device whether it be radio transmission, Internet or telephone. The NSA also works as a highly top-secret agency that hires the best in the field in regards to creating and understanding cryptography.
For sometime now whistle-blower groups like Wikileaks routinely warn citizens when using sites such as Facebook, and while Facebook has only been around a few years, it has approximately 1 billion people with accounts that contain information any spy agency could only dream of before. In fact, no other social media has contained such a wealth of intelligence material in history.
According to the new document, the way in which the NSA and FBI gather the information comes directly from the companies themselves. The document reads in part, “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
PRISM began in the latter part of the of the Bush administration in 2007 after lawsuits began revealing more about the warrant-less domestic surveillance the government used post 9/11. The Protect America Act of 2007 along with the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 gave Internet companies immunity if they were willing to participate in the program.
The data shows that Microsoft was the first company to get on board with the program, and over the next few years until now, they were able to gain in total nine of the largest and most powerful Internet companies. Oddly enough, Congress still held debates on Internet Privacy and many activist groups were fighting bills such as SOPA and PIPA never knowing that our most sensitive private information was being gathered right from under our noses.
Even more ridiculous about the PRISM program, is that the few lawmakers in Congress who knew about the program, were bound by oaths of office not to mention it, and thereby forced to stay silent while inquiring about Internet privacy and what companies were doing to protect it.