On Thursday, June 13, Robert Mueller who serves as the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation spoke before lawmakers for the first time concerning the recent leaks on the U.S. federal PRISM Program. Mueller said that the FBI would aggressively be tracking down former the former NSA contract employee, Edward Snowden, and prosecute him for exposing the program to the world.
Seated before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Mueller said that the FBI would be “taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for these disclosures.”
The FBI head, without naming Snowden by name, claimed that the leak had significantly jeopardized the safety and security of the American people and possibly those living abroad as well. “These disclosures have caused significant harm to our nation and to our safety,” Mueller said to members of Congress.
Mueller also stated that it was false that the program specifically invaded the American people’s privacy, and that it only collected general data such as time of call, numbers called and length of time and that no agency had the authority to get specific content without a court order.
Edward Snowden was a 29-year-old NSA contract employee who disclosed the PRISM program to the U.K.-based Guardian and the Washington Post approximately one week ago. PRISM, according to the leaked documents, is able to monitor all communication going on inside the U.S. and particularly with cellular telephone calls.
The documents also gave the impression that the NSA have a direct backdoor connection to at least nine of the largest Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.
Snowden, who revealed himself publicly just a few days after the disclosure, is currently residing in Hong Kong. He says he plans on staying in the region and fight extradition any way he can.
President Barack Obama has publicly blasted Snowden for leaking the surveillance program. He also defended it saying it was simply a ‘moderate’ intrusion on people’s privacy and something that the American people needed if they wanted to enjoy their security from any type of outside threat.
Mueller said that because of Snowden’s divulging how PRISM works, terrorists would change their tactics in an effort to hide their communications more efficiently. He further iterated that the CIA, NSA and FBI are essentially crippled and that national security is seriously hurt. “We’re going to … lose our ability to get their communications. We are going to be exceptionally vulnerable. Mueller said. “Let nobody be misled in this. This hurts national security.”
NSA head, General Keith Alexander, also spoke to Congress a day earlier and said that PRISM had helped thwart dozens of possible terrorist attacks. Also, in an effort to show the American people how program is supposedly operating, more indepth details on how it operates will be revealed early next week and possibly as soon as Monday, June 17th.
While many high-ranking lawmakers have publicly approved of PRISM with its access to millions of American’s data, not all agree that it is the right thing for America. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is urging his constituents and others to bring about a class-action lawsuit against the federal government to help end the techniques currently being used.
Rand also has a personal website where anyone can sign on to be part of the class-action and also claims to have over a quarter million signatures so far. “Americans are rightly concerned about having all of their phone records collected and monitored all the time,” Paul said.
More recently Bloomberg reported that at least four people connected very closely with some of the most powerful technology companies said that thousand of technology-based companies have been working very closely with U.S. national security agencies for some time. Some of that information includes, but not limited to, access to classified intelligence in return for providing sensitive intelligence gathering from their systems.
One key revelation is that Microsoft, which is currently the world’s largest software company, has been providing the U.S. government with secret information about bugs in their software. These bugs could then be used by the spy agencies to help with infiltrating foreign adversaries’ computer systems or severs that might be running the software.
These so-called ‘trusted partner’s with U.S. national security agencies encompass a far larger arena than what Edward Snowden stated in his interview with the Guardian. Furthermore, some of this purported data includes equipment specifications, makers of the hardware being used in the systems, bank affiliations and even the Internet security firms being used.
Satellite communications companies are also said to be participating with the spy agencies as well. According to sources, this information is not just used to spy on what is happening in side the U.S. but also as a means with infiltrating foreign computer systems without being detected.
While these new revelations about the connection between tech giants and the federal government’s spy agencies are disconcerting to many, it is not anything new. Ira Hunt, who serves as the Central Intelligence Agency’s chief technology officer, made a presentation in late March of this year before the GigaOM Structure: Data Conference. Hunt said that the CIA is looking to “collect everything and hang onto it forever.”
During his 1.5-hour talk, Hunt explained how the CIA was expanding their data storage, “Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever. The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time”.