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NSA General Counsel Insists US Companies Assisted In Data Collection

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the he-said-she-said dept.

United States 103

Related to yesterday's story about the NSA, Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with this excerpt from The Guardian: "Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called 'upstream' collection of communications moving across the Internet. ... nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL – claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had 'never heard' the term Prism. De explained: 'Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,' De said. 'Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.'"

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103 comments

Of course they did! (4, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 4 months ago | (#46536697)

The Feds kept the receipts!

When Apple said they'd never heard of Prism, they were using lawyer-speak to conflate not knowing the official program name with not knowing the program existed.

Re:Of course they did! (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#46536855)

Yes, exactly. But not just Apple, by any means. Apple, AT&T, Comcast, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

They've all been using Orwellian doublespeak, implying they had no knowledge at all by claiming they had no knowledge of a tiny, specific thing.

Traitors, the lot of them.

Let's all remember that treason is not disobeying your government, it is betraying your country and your people.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about 4 months ago | (#46537713)

At least until you need a new iphone/ipad - then you can conveniently forget this ever happen.

Because lets all be perfectly honest here: this is what 99.99999999% of people making such claims are going to do.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 4 months ago | (#46542241)

99.99999999% of the 7 billion people on earth = 0.7 people.

Big in the pants, not in the skull, eh? ;)

Re:Of course they did! (1)

jeadly (602916) | about 4 months ago | (#46544667)

I think you did 0.0000000001% of 7 billion.

Yahoo CEO's term (2)

sl3xd (111641) | about 4 months ago | (#46537977)

Traitors, the lot of them.

Unfortunately, there are multiple ways of finding the 'traitor' here...

I seem to recall Yahoo's CEO saying something along the lines of "If I discuss government surveillance programs, I go to prison as a traitor; if I don't comply with them, I'm also a traitor." (obviously paraphrased)

So if you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, I'd go with the one that doesn't involve a very public slam-dunk federal crime.

This is especially true with our current legislature (both houses, all parties), as well as multiple executives (both R and D), whom have voted to make the surveillance legal, and a Supreme Court that has also sided with the other two branches.

I can't really fault anyone faced with that decision.

The law as it currently stands may be horrible, but it is still the law, and the only way out is for voters to elect leaders who want to remove it.

Re:Yahoo CEO's term (1)

Arker (91948) | about 4 months ago | (#46538585)

Except that the programs they are running go far beyond even what the Patriot Act authorizes. So if they wont obey the Patriot Act, why do you think they will obey a new law they like less?

Re:Yahoo CEO's term (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 4 months ago | (#46540171)

You have hit the nail on the head. This program was approved by the Executive, Legislative, and Legal branches of the government. I understand folks do not agree but it is the law. Just because you disagree with the law does that mean you can release information to enemies of the United States?

Re:Yahoo CEO's term (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#46545533)

No, Constitutionally, it is not law.

As Jefferson said: a law that oversteps the Constitution is null and void, and of no force. It is not a law.

And he was right. Since the Federal government derives its power from the Constitution, any legislation that violates that Constitution is by definition not a real law. Any attempt to enforceme an extra-Constitutional law is also pretty much by definition treason... according to the government's own logic.

Re:Yahoo CEO's term (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46545825)

"This program was approved by the Executive, Legislative, and Legal branches of the government. I understand folks do not agree but it is the law."

These branches are all empowered by the people via the constitution. The Constitution remains the highest law in the land. If the executive, legislative, and judicial branches enact, enforce, and uphold something that in fact violates the constitution that something is NOT the law, they are in fact all violating the law.

And yes, it does mean you can release information to bring their illegal actions to the light of day. Choosing the lesser of two legal evils (such as releasing classified data rather than being an accomplice to breaking constitutional law) is grounds for an affirmative defense to the lesser crimes. Ethically, it falls under civil disobedience and is a form of non-violent protest, and as non-violent protest of government action it is a protected right under the constitution.

Re:Yahoo CEO's term (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#46545461)

I seem to recall Yahoo's CEO saying something along the lines of "If I discuss government surveillance programs, I go to prison as a traitor; if I don't comply with them, I'm also a traitor."

Except that this is using government's definition of "traitor", which means doing whatever it doesn't like. That's not a valid definition.

From the dictionary:

"Treason noun the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign. "

The problem here being that our government is the Constitution, and in the United States, it is The People who are defined as sovereign.

So when the Feds violate the Constitution, they are committing treason, because they are violating the law and betraying their sovereign.

Saying that obeying an unconstitutional "law" is treason is the worst possible kind of doublespeak.

Re:Of course they did! (3, Informative)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 4 months ago | (#46538215)

To be fair, they were 'compulsory legal process', and almost certainly were accompanied by gag orders that have not been rescinded.

There are many kinds of domestic spying, referred to by their section of law. You've got 501, 1806, 1825, and 1845. All four can be used with gag orders. The ISP is basically forced to install hardware. They can chose to let the government do everything (and get paid for resources used), or install a tap themselves so the government can use it (and charge for resources used), or fight it (the tap still gets installed, but they don't get paid for resources used.)

Most of these come with gag orders: If you say anything, even hint that you might have known was was going on, and you risk violating the gag order.

There are very few business owners who have said anything about the process. Everyone should read Pete Ashdown's account [buzzfeed.com] . (He founded a major ISP in 1993, has run for senate, etc.) He describes receiving a FISA order, not being allowed to take notes or other details. Unlike most companies, he decided to isolate the customer's virtual machine to a single dedicated box, and then put the court-ordered recording box on that one specific box.

In the article he spends three paragraphs describing what the did, ending with "I can’t tell you all the details about it. I would love to tell you all the details, but I did get the gag order. I have probably told people too much. That was two years ago. If they want to come back and haunt me, fine.

When these executives are getting potentially a few dozen to a few hundred of these requests that include a gag order. None have revealed as much as Ashdown did in those few paragraphs, other than to say in corporate reports that they have received 0-999 such orders.

Re:Of course they did! (2)

Garridan (597129) | about 4 months ago | (#46538401)

And look at you, buying into the government's blame-shifting. This is the opposite of Nuremberg -- don't blame us, we were only giving orders! Blame the eeeevil companies that did the deed, not the innocent government who merely demanded compliance with threat of imprisonment or worse, fines!

Re:Of course they did! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#46545575)

"And look at you, buying into the government's blame-shifting."

Huh? Where did you get that idea? Certainly not from anything I wrote.

I definitely DO blame them. They know better. They've just pretended not to. That was part of my point.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 4 months ago | (#46540153)

The Department of Justice and Courts have reviewed procedures and warrants for the program. Congress has authorized the program many times over. Presidents are familiar with the program. Can you count to three? Executive, Legislative, Courts. All of these groups were aware and gave their approval. Who might I ask is the traitor in this scenario?

Re:Of course they did! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#46545959)

Wow. Mega-WHOOSH.

Now everyone comes out to say something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46540401)

Now people believe this? Where was everyone that modded people like myself down every time there was an article over how these companies "knew nothing" and "were unaware of various tactics used to obtain [steal] data". The fact these companies rarely get hacked, shows they have decent security, so they should've known of any breaches. And lets not forget all the holes they intentionally put in place, specifically designed for the NSA and other spying agencies to freely steal whatever they wanted..

Users of /. should be considered traitors, those that completely blew this off as "companies being bullied". I don't just believe everything I read and stay in the gray area, but there were to many anonymous comments from people associated with government that kept hinting this was going on, after it was first leaked by Snowden. And then the obvious PR attempts by government to claim companies had nothing to do with willfully aiding them.

Double standard, they can do this and get huge pensions after they quit or given special deals to retire, and still walk away with there retirement. The average Joe/Jane goes into prison and pays hefty fines.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

Todd Palin (1402501) | about 4 months ago | (#46536865)

The question is, which liars lies are the most believable? Is there a choice where they are all lying?

Re:Of course they did! (0)

MobSwatter (2884921) | about 4 months ago | (#46537015)

I am glad to see the heat is now being properly directed as you all now understand what happened to your rights and freedoms and why. But you need to look specifically at the bills and exactly what political figures supported them, and the corporations that lobbied these politicians. Not all corporations are at fault, some just got taken for a ride, look for the ones that stood to gain the most, isolate the ones that took the lions share. Look back at see the ones that pushed for corporate lobbying to begin with, and demand election reform.

Re:Of course they did! (0)

MobSwatter (2884921) | about 4 months ago | (#46537203)

There is also a particularly dangerous bill that is active now. Being that we recognize abuse of the national security infrastructure, anything that involved it should be scrutinized at great length. The TPP, or the Trans Pacific Partnership uses national security infrastructure as the original text is classified. We know so far that corporate greed will only care about their own bottom line and that has what has bankrupted this country into uncontrollable deficit spending, it would be safe to believe that this bill would further that particularly undesired effect.

Re:Of course they did! (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46537189)

The question is, which liars lies are the most believable? Is there a choice where they are all lying?

At least the ones who had threat of breaking secret Federal laws prohibiting them from telling the truth have an excuse.

Sure, they lied to us. But they'd been told by the feds that if they didn't, they'd be charged under secret laws and dropped into a deep, dark hole.

The people who got the ability, and subsequently used that ability, to force companies into collecting this information and lying to the public are the real criminals here.

If I lie to you while someone is holding a gun to my head, and I'm pretty sure they mean it, I had little choice. If I was the one holding the gun to your head and forcing you to lie ... well, I can hardly protest my innocence (which is what they're doing now).

Even if these companies did lie to us, it was under the direction of these people who are now acting as if the companies were complicit. When in reality, there was the legal equivalent of a gun pointed at their head.

The message is you can't trust either of them, and you should stop trusting them with your personal information -- because even if they don't want to be, they're not effectively arms of state security.

Which means you can bet that US based cloud services and the like will probably start to see losses of business around the world as people realize that they have no choice but to comply.

Under the PATRIOT Act, anything Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, or any other company in the US knows about you can and will be handed over to the feds if they demand it.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#46537467)

At least the ones who had threat of breaking secret Federal laws prohibiting them from telling the truth have an excuse.

Sure, they lied to us. But they'd been told by the feds that if they didn't, they'd be charged under secret laws and dropped into a deep, dark hole.

I wonder how the SEC and FTC will feel about materially false statements.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46537697)

I wonder how the SEC and FTC will feel about materially false statements.

Good question ... but if you found yourself in this position where one department of the government said you must lie and the other said you must tell the truth ... wouldn't you more or less tell the judge to tell you which of the two contradictory laws you should have followed?

I'm betting the secret courts and terrorism investigation (or, at least that's how they justify it) trumps the SEC and the FTC. Of course, if the people with the secret laws deny their involvement you're really screwed.

I think you're screwed either way, but if you can make the case that the men in black suits and sunglasses forbade you from saying anything that you acted with best intent under the circumstances.

I have no idea if there are laws and court decisions that tell you when two laws contradict which one you go with. For all I know, we're in new territory on this one.

Re:Of course they did! (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 4 months ago | (#46540185)

Does the government need to obtain a warrant to obtain this information? My impression in reading news articles is that they must get warrants. If they must get warrants does this change the situation?

Re:Of course they did! (1)

fulldecent (598482) | about 4 months ago | (#46543363)

>> But they'd been told by the feds that if they didn't, they'd be charged under secret laws and dropped into a deep, dark hole

I'm pretty sure that if Steve Jobs was around and if the damage to Apple's reputation outvalued their good relationship with government then he would find a morally justifiable solution.

Re:Of course they did! (4, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 4 months ago | (#46537019)

When Apple said they'd never heard of Prism, they were using lawyer-speak to conflate not knowing the official program name with not knowing the program existed.

People like you are the reason why the NSA is spreading this nonsense. To deflect any anger from themselves to these companies, like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple. Because they _know_ that there are plenty of fanboys who put all the blame on Apple, or put all the blame on Google, or on Microsoft, and then the other fanboys say that Apple is innocent and Google is evil, or Google is innocent and Apple is evil, and Microsoft is evil anyway, and everyone forgets about the NSA.

Fact is, the NSA are lying and spying scumbags. Fact is, there is no evidence that anyone supported them knowingly or willingly. The only indication that someone did is the word of the lying and spying scumbags.

Re: Of course they did! (1)

nehumanuscrede (624750) | about 4 months ago | (#46539003)

Perhaps, but if you try to shift the blame and throw company X under the bus while doing so, watch how much cooperation you get from that company in the future. ( assuming the whole thing isn't a comete sham )

While company X isn't allowed to discuss anything related to the gag orders, I would simply leak the entire thing out to ( insert some torrent site here ) and blame it on bad security, some zero day exploit at the hands of some evil hacker.

Technically, they DIDN'T discuss it, the data was stolen from their servers :)

Re:Of course they did! (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 4 months ago | (#46537311)

Maybe I put on a tinfoil hat this morning without realizing it, but I don't understand how this makes any sense at all, in the context of what was on the slides that first revealed PRISM to the world [wordpress.com] . If the program only involved sending out demands that companies have no choice but to follow, then there's nothing notable about when "PRISM collection began for each provider" (to quote the slides). All that date would be is the date that each company received their first demand from the government under this program, which is in no way meaningful. That's like saying, "I first served a warrant to Joe in May, and to Jim in July, and to Bob in September." Who cares? Why spend an entire slide on it, especially after you had already listed all of the "providers"?

Meanwhile, if I was an NSA representative and PRISM was actually a program based on exploiting vulnerabilities that we had either planted or discovered, I'd want to be doing everything possible to deflect attention from that possibility so that no one tried to patch the holes. That's especially true, now that the rumor mill is suggesting that Apple discovered the goto fail bug [slashdot.org] by auditing all software changes in and around the date that the slides said they were added to PRISM. With one company finding a bug the NSA could have used at exactly the time that the NSA says the company was added as a "provider" of data, the NSA may be sweating bullets that the others will follow suit and that the well will dry up. Not only that, they may be worried that the dates on that slide will give them an arrow pointing exactly to where they should be looking for holes.

Re:Of course they did! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46539451)

Bingo.

But another fine point that most people here haven't picked up on is that the NSA is just saying "these companies are aware". Obviously not every single last person AT each company was aware, so the REAL question which should be put to the NSA is "Exactly what do you mean by aware?" WHO at the company was "aware", and what specifically were they "aware" of?
For all we know there was ONE guy in some legal department who was told by the NSA that "Hey, we're tapping your datacenters, and here's a Gag Order so you can't tell anybody at all about it, even anyone else in your company". Then they can say "Oh, we made the Company aware".

Right now the NSA has exactly Zero credibility with me, and should have NO credibility with anyone else either. Until they produce some solid PROOF of who they made aware, what they were made aware of, and when they were made aware, I'm going to call it total Bullshit. And you all should do the same.

Re:Of course they did! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537381)

And still are!

Taking bets here.. (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about 4 months ago | (#46536703)

The first rule of NSA data collection is that you don't mention NSA data collection or the NSA .. ever.

Unless you want to be tried by a secret court and end up somewhere you really don't want to be.

Re:Taking bets here.. (5, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | about 4 months ago | (#46536819)

What I find is hilarious is that "being forced to comply" is considered "assisting".

Apparently when your only choice is jail or compliance, somehow you're assisting in the process.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1, Informative)

udachny (2454394) | about 4 months ago | (#46536961)

Wait, didn't you know that you are submitting your tax data to IRS on VOLUNTARY basis? As in, if you ask them whether you must submit the data, if it is forced upon you, they will tell you that it is voluntary?

But good luck to you if you try to exercise voluntarism and not submit that data...

Re: Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537031)

If you don't owe the government more than what your employer collects (not voluntary), why would they care if you filed or not?

Re:Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46536967)

So Google running their internal server to server communications in the clear was 'assisting' as well.

Is the NSA saying that there was awareness here?

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46537217)

What I find is hilarious is that "being forced to comply" is considered "assisting".

Aint double-speak grand?

Papers please comrade, and thank you for your 'voluntary' compliance -- we will stop pointing guns at you for the time being.

Time was, this kind of thing would have caused outrage in the US. Now it's just considered normal, and something to be accepted.

Orwell and Huxley had nothing on what's really happening.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

ripvlan (2609033) | about 4 months ago | (#46537231)

Yeah - that was my first thought. Kind of like when a bully is beating a weak kid with his own arms. "he was hitting himself"

Wasn't that the definition of "the letter" - the one that companies aren't allowed to acknowledge they received?! Maybe they aren't allowed to even say that they heard of the program.

Re:Taking bets here.. (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#46537525)

Apparently when your only choice is jail or compliance, somehow you're assisting in the process.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing."

This is why we have whistle blower laws.
It's why the Nuremberg Principles declare that 'just following orders' is not a defense when a moral option is possible (with the implication that its unpleasantness is irrelevant).

Re:Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46538703)

Godwin's Law: "Nurenberg" is an indirect reference to Nazis.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#46539173)

Right. And what happened to the last few people who tried to blow the whistle?

Re:Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46540433)

Right. And what happened to the last few people who tried to blow the whistle?

All the "good men" in the government immediately did everything they could to shut them up.

Oh, you thought the line "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing." meant to tell good men to take action? No, it was really just an excuse for bad men to do what they want and then pretend they were good men.

Re:Taking bets here.. (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46537761)

What I find is hilarious is that "being forced to comply" is considered "assisting".

Apparently when your only choice is jail or compliance, somehow you're assisting in the process.

If you choose between being a traitor and going to jail, and you choose being a traitor, you still deserve to be hanged from the neck until dead.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 4 months ago | (#46538545)

We should see how you behave in that situation, drinkypoo.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46538803)

We should see how you behave in that situation, drinkypoo.

You never will, because someone like me would never be permitted to become that powerful. I am not one of those born privileged, and my ideals conflict with theirs too strongly to be permitted to become privileged.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#46539177)

Are you saying that you can never see yourself, say, hired by Google?

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 4 months ago | (#46539305)

You think the rank-and-file at Google knew anything about what the NSA wanted? Or any of the other companies, for that matter. The actual secret order was undoubtedly seen only by C-level executives and higher. The peons weren't told a thing about what the random extra piece of equipment was for, and most of the peons never knew there was an extra piece of equipment sitting in the datacenter.

Those of us with ideals that conflict with the privileged do not get to become C-level executives of billion dollar companies. Not without a long process that grinds the ideals off first, at least. If we object to the beginning of that process (because someone erroneously selected one of us to be subjected to it), it quietly ends and no more will be said about it. And no promotions in that direction will ever be forthcoming, either.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#46539317)

Some rank-and-file probably did. Or, at least, were given enough information to strongly suspect - it doesn't take the "actual secret order" to figure out that you're running and administering a system that's wiretapping and archiving communications.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46543483)

Some of them always know because at the end, there's always a peon involved.

One person I know who worked for an ISP actually had to hand an FBI agent a fucking cdrom weekly with traffic logs to comply with a monitoring request, one of those ones you can't tell the customer about. You don't think a CEO is going to do anything menial...

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#46544749)

Yup, that was my point exactly.

The problem is that it's not really limited to big corps. If you're in any way related to the business of transferring data that those guys are interested in - say, even a small local ISP - you can end up being that appointed peon, and then the choice is very direct and acute for you.

Re:Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46548561)

I know of several analytic companies that were asked by the NSA. They were told to get stuffed and come back with a real order, not a national security letter, which they never did.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46539307)

Are you saying that you can never see yourself, say, hired by Google?

Probably not. I've spoken out against the creation of monolithic points of control, before. The internet will have to become more distributed if it is to be anything other than a boot on our necks, and that goes for services like search as well.

Re:Taking bets here.. (1)

BlazingATrail (3112385) | about 4 months ago | (#46538525)

So what happens if one of these big companies say FU and refuse to let NSA in. As soon as a warrant, raid or somebody is jailed then the "secret program" is out of the bag. These companies need to grow a pair.

Re:Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46539237)

I would think the NSA would be able to hack into your systems. They only ask first if they think that is easier.

Re:Taking bets here.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537365)

This is why you move your headquarters abroad in a non-cooperative country.

Unless you want to be tried by a secret court and end up somewhere you really don't want to be.

Good luck sending them to gitmo if they are as I said above.

Meanwhile if they openly admitted it... (4, Insightful)

bussdriver (620565) | about 4 months ago | (#46536715)

They likely would have been charged as traitors for admitting the whole thing... The legal agreement must say something about keeping silent and that would STILL be in effect to this day as long as the legal agreement is still active.

Re: Meanwhile if they openly admitted it... (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 4 months ago | (#46536849)

In some cases but I suspect many to be in the government's good books for when they apply for contracts.

Re:Meanwhile if they openly admitted it... (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | about 4 months ago | (#46536851)

But the NSA would be free to mention that fact and thus explain away their denial. But, they didn't.

Re:Meanwhile if they openly admitted it... (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 4 months ago | (#46536899)

But the NSA would be free to mention that fact and thus explain away their denial. But, they didn't.

What? And rob the NSA of the chance to say in public "See .. we aren't really that bad. And all those other companies were complicit with what we are doing".

It sounds like a classic deflection move by the NSA to try and move the conversation away from themselves.

Re:Meanwhile if they openly admitted it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537107)

What? And rob the NSA of the chance to say in public "See .. we aren't really that bad. And all those other companies were complicit with what we are doing".

Except of course, the companies are legally compelled to assist, and legally prevented from telling anybody about it.

So, sorry, but the NSA are still the assholes in this scenario.

They're the ones who have gone well into wide-scale, warrantless wiretapping.

They should all be hung as traitors, including the idiots who passed the PATRIOT act in the first place. Because claiming you didn't know this would be abused makes you either a fucking liar, or a complete moron.

secrecy orders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46536803)

If you are an individual who received one of these orders and you are working at a company are you even legally allowed to inform your superiors and coworkers about the specifics of the request? Seems very likely that management was largely kept in the dark unless compliance with the order required some large government compensation like apparently it did with Verizon and other telecoms.

who thinks... (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | about 4 months ago | (#46536805)

Who thinks the NSA has to explain this to us carefully? The major concern of these big companies is their next buck.

Re:who thinks... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46536893)

Let's not forget that the NSA is the root of much of the evil in the us government right now.

I'm sure most of the companies other than AT&T only participated because they were forced to. And I'm sure it's true the NSA tapped into the cables between data centers.

Remember, who are we 100% sure lies to congress and the American people? The NSA. Who are we 100% sure uses double talk to try to blame others are mislead? The NSA.

Any it's the evil company's, not the NSA posts are probably posted by paid NSA shills. Remember, we know those exist as well.

Re:who thinks... (1)

KillDaBOB (206494) | about 4 months ago | (#46540879)

Yes, there are pieces of equipment hooked up between the different networks of ISPs. I recently (a week ago) sent my ISP a complaint that a router between them and another large ISP would sometimes start to increase in latency 2x-3x the normal when crossing over to the other ISPs network. They sent me a reply that this issue can't be resolved because the particular piece of hardware that is causing intermediate problems is owned by the military. Now, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that military could mean anything, and is most likely monitored or even installed by the NSA. It only makes sense for the NSA to install their own hardware between the different networks of large ISPs, since these are choke points of communication.

Re:who thinks... (1)

Todd Palin (1402501) | about 4 months ago | (#46536923)

Liars lie. Professional liars lie professionally. A professional lie can be hard to refute.

Sure they assisted! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46536847)

No doubt in my mind.. The real question is, did they have a choice?

Somehow - I doubt it.

Weasel Words (4, Insightful)

PineHall (206441) | about 4 months ago | (#46536879)

After the hearing, De added that service providers also know and receive legal compulsions surrounding NSA’s harvesting of communications data not from companies but directly in transit across the internet under 702 authority.

And

De and his administration colleagues were quick to answer the board that companies were aware of the government’s collection of data under 702, which Robert Litt, general counsel for the director of national intelligence, told the board was “one of the most valuable collection tools that we have.”

But what was not said was

Neither De nor any other US official discussed data taken from the internet under different legal authorities. Different documents Snowden disclosed, published by the Washington Post, indicated that NSA takes data as it transits between Yahoo and Google data centers, an activity reportedly conducted not under Section 702 but under a seminal executive order known as 12333.

So they did not lie but they did not tell the whole truth either.

Re:Weasel Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537033)

so they knew what they were "voluntarily" giving them but not about inter-datacenter fiber taps? (the infamous smiley face slide)

if that's the case it certainly doesn't make them (google, apple, etc) "good" guys but if they were (& presumably still are) under threat of prosecution for discussing the former one could make the argument that at least expressing outrage about the (presumably) fiber taps was the lesser of evils (vs saying nothing about anything). regardless of how one feels about that debate there is NO question that this is a PR stunt to tar them w/complicity when it occurred at (figurative) gunpoint...

Re:Weasel Words (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#46537307)

No, they lied to. When people read this stuff I keep getting the impression they feel like they at the end of the conspiracy movie where everything is revealed. This is a very very long movie... we aren't anywhere near the end. Assume everything you hear is a lie and you'll probably be closer to the truth.

Note some interesting things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46538389)

US Code 702

executive order.

One was law written by congress, the other was an executive order. This is not an NSA problem...

Redirecting Attention? (3, Insightful)

Mysticode (696150) | about 4 months ago | (#46536907)

This sounds like the NSA is trying to redirect some of the negative attention they have received from this elsewhere. Although that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't true.

Also in today's "No shit, Sherlock" section (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46536939)

Water is wet

The sun rises in the east.

Why throw them under the bus? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 4 months ago | (#46536955)

I'm sure that the big providers did know (or looked the other way and pretended not to know) about the data collection either under an implied or explicit threat that the data collection project was to remain absolutely secret under penalty of law. It's unlikely that the NSA spent the time and money to reverse-engineer (and continually update) whatever protocol Google uses to back up customer data across datacenters to let them effectively snoop that data -- without Google's help there's too much danger of a code change breaking the surveillance, letting data go unmonitored until the NSA catches up again. And it's pointless to dedicate hundreds of engineers to doing this continual reverse engineering when all it takes is a national security letter to force Google to cooperate.

So since the providers have continued to stay silent and refuse to admit that they knew anything about it, why would the NSA "reward" them for their cooperation by revealing that the providers knew about it all along?

that begs an interesting ?: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537923)

how DOES the NSA integrate all this data? considering how badly most companies abysmally SUCK at integrating their OWN data even WITH the benefit of in house SMEs (often the very people who build the data models) how does one general case the problem of "one ETL to rule them all!!!"?

Re:that begs an interesting ?: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46538457)

They don't. Data collected in the US can only be touched with a search warrant.

Sorry, reality is much more boring than the conspiracy theories.

Re:that begs an interesting ?: (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 4 months ago | (#46539009)

They don't. Data collected in the US can only be touched with a search warrant.

Sorry, reality is much more boring than the conspiracy theories.

Until, of course, reality surpasses conspiracy theories.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/11/... [cnn.com]

Or do you think the head of the Senate Committee on Intelligence is making a baseless accusation, even when such an accusation makes her sound like a hypocrite?

yeah, the US companies would like us to disregard. (1)

strstr (539330) | about 4 months ago | (#46536987)

their ass kissing, brown nosing, corporate crime profiteering shit. in the name of reducing liability for damages if the people sue back! and so far the public has not sued back, which they should because we can maybe overthrow some of these monopolies, make some money, and send them into bankruptcy. at which point, we rebuild without their shit.

The occupy movement should in fact focus it's strategy exclusively on legal action against the corporations and the government to undo all the harm they've done, and to gain some power.

and the NSA themselves are sitting there downplaying the abuse, insisting it was only meta-data when it was content of all communications, word for word. and watching us masturbate on webcams, hacking our cellphone devices to turn them into roving bugs even when the power was off, and using satellites and radar to remotely spy on us even under cover of buildings and getting access to our thoughts and data through very illegal means. http://www.oregonstatehospital... [oregonstatehospital.net]

Re:yeah, the US companies would like us to disrega (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537875)

You are, by far, one of the most serious crackpots on this site

Obvious but not interesting. (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 months ago | (#46537095)

Of course American companies cooperated. What exactly were they supposed to do?

"Nice company you've got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it."

It would have been nice if someone would have shown some spine here. However, the fact that no one had the balls to stand up to the NSA really doesn't get them off the hook for anything.

Re:Obvious but not interesting. (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46537321)

It would have been nice if someone would have shown some spine here.

How do you know they didn't? Did some front-line tech guy say "no fucking way" only to be dragged off under a secret warrant?

However, the fact that no one had the balls to stand up to the NSA really doesn't get them off the hook for anything.

Indeed, I view this as the legal equivalent of saying that once you'd cocked the hammer on the gun and your rape victim stopped struggling she was a "voluntary participant".

"Why yes your honor, we did threaten the accused, but once he realized we might throw him off the roof he confessed" used to be the poisoned fruit, now it's Standard Procedure for the government agencies.

A government which works in secret and through intimidation under secret laws has ceased to be just, and will only get worse.

Re:Obvious but not interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46540449)

It would have been nice if someone would have shown some spine here.

How do you know they didn't? Did some front-line tech guy say "no fucking way" only to be dragged off under a secret warrant?

The "front-line tech guy" won't even KNOW the data he helped to collect is making its way to the NSA.

The network guy might knew he helped connect some cables from a server to a new rack, which he did all the time anyway.

The inventory guy might notice a new machine belonging to some obscure team somewhere.

Only the manager who oversee all these might know what's happening, along with getting a gag order.

The CEO is too busy playing gold with his Washington buddies to care.

Re:Obvious but not interesting. (3, Informative)

Jawnn (445279) | about 4 months ago | (#46537399)

It would have been nice if someone would have shown some spine here. However, the fact that no one had the balls to stand up to the NSA really doesn't get them off the hook for anything.

I beg to differ... QWest did exactly that. Who's QWest, you say? Now, you're getting it.

Re:Obvious but not interesting. (1)

KillDaBOB (206494) | about 4 months ago | (#46540915)

qwest was bought out by CenturyTel (now known as CenturyLink). there is no conspiracy theory about what happened to them...

Why Yes Sir. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 4 months ago | (#46537099)

Of course we believe you.

Because your reputation for truth and veracity is so well established. Why you would never think of lying to the public. You treat us almost as well as you treat Congress :D

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537235)

We know they did, and if some people ever find out they assisted on collection of their information, then those companies should expect a military response.

We are entering a new era (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 4 months ago | (#46537265)

For once the NSA tells the truth! I never thought I'd see the day. Must be that "transparency" thing the president was talking about.

Re:We are entering a new era (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46539287)

Must be that "transparency" thing the president was talking about.

LOL, nice try if that what this is.. As transparent as a slab of concrete if you ask me.

It's the pillar of American business! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46537301)

I'd like to know how much of the American economy is directly related to this BURNING of the constitution in a too-big-to-fail way? How big will the crash be if it does get fixed... We all know that once you go down this road there's no turning back, so... Say goodbye to FREEDOM, bye!

They do it the same way the president does it. (1, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#46537337)

They do it the same way the president does it. They don't tell the press secretary anything... then he can say "We aren't aware of anything like that!" and maybe even the president doesn't directly know... but 1 guy knows... the guy in regulatory compliance... or the corporate lawyer. Of course, that person doesn't go out in public to discuss it so they can never actually called out as liars. But we all know the truth.

I am NOT impressed (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#46537349)

NSA should NOT be taking this public. It is bad enough that Snowden is a traitor, but NSA needs to SHUT UP.

Re:I am NOT impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46538391)

It is bad enough that Snowden is a traitor, but NSA needs to SHUT UP.

On your first point, fortunately, Snowden is a patriot, not a traitor, so that concern is a non-issue.

On your second point, the NSA has been silent for far too long, and thanks to the patriot, Snowden, we now have documentation proving that when the NSA has not shut up, it has bald-facedly lied through its teeth. So no, the NSA does not need to shut up. The NSA needs to keep talking so we can learn what other lies it is trying to foist on us.

Re:I am NOT impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46538597)

NSA should NOT be taking this public. It is bad enough that Snowden is a traitor, but NSA needs to SHUT UP.

A traitor to the NSA but a patriot to the American people.

It's clear which side you support. You might want to consider that by siding with the NSA against the American public, you yourself become a traitor to the people of America.

This is ridiculous (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 4 months ago | (#46537587)

1. It seems to me that the credibility of the NSA is such that I don't believe much if anything they say. As such I am going to disbelieve this until substantial evidence supporting it is presented.

2. Even if it is true, the fact that many NSA data gathering programs are accompanied by gag orders and other secrecy requirements there is no particular reason for me to believe that the cooperation of the companies was at all voluntary and they could disclose what was happening to my data without peril of extreme and secret legal penalties.

So all in all this is a completely ridiculous thing for him to say, and it has no particular utility for the general public even if it were absolutely true.

For Chrissssssake! (1)

no-body (127863) | about 4 months ago | (#46537625)

Who is talking? A lawyer!

Anyone getting a NSL K N O W S about it but goes to jail if s/he talks about it.

It doesn't matter what they knew (1)

crioca (1394491) | about 4 months ago | (#46539167)

What they knew is beside the point; they were legally obligated to disavow any knowledge of these programs. Even once they'd already been disclosed.

The silver lining to this was it allowed these companies to deflect anger onto the NSA. Good, because the NSA are the ones to blame, I might not like what MS, Apple, etc were doing, but I can't blame them for it. Responsibility for this fucking mess lies foremost with the state spying agencies, specifically the NSA.

Vint Cerf salesman (1)

Erik Bird (2972117) | about 4 months ago | (#46539433)

I worked at the NSA a couple years and saw Vint Cerf talk at a meeting at the NSA in 2009. Cerf was being asked for his opinion on using hadoop at the NSA. One thing he did say was that he was there as a salesman, to sell google products to the NSA. Also the google tech talk "The Secret History of Silicon Valley" is illuminating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Vint Cerf: Salesman (1)

Erik Bird (2972117) | about 4 months ago | (#46539481)

I worked at the NSA a couple years and saw Vint Cerf talk at a meeting at the NSA in 2009. Cerf was being asked for his opinion on using hadoop at the NSA. One thing he did say was that he was there as a salesman, to sell google products to the NSA. Also the google tech talk "The Secret History of Silicon Valley" is illuminating. https://www.youtube.com/watch [youtube.com] ?... [youtube.com]

Lies (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 4 months ago | (#46540519)

If the statement in TFA was true, I would have heard of the program. But I didn't.

Another case of the NSA lying.

what a bunch of hypocrites (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 4 months ago | (#46540731)

The idea that private companies would voluntarily take on the expense and risk of giving their customer data to the NSA is ridiculous. Whatever "cooperation" the NSA got from companies must have involved legal and other threats by the NSA both to comply with their demands and to keep silent about it.

So.. going by the Counsel's name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46541959)

The NSA has outsourced their Lawyers? Between this and that pesky issue of SPYING ON THEIR OWN PEOPLE, how are they NOT traitors?

Check the facts (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 4 months ago | (#46548207)

The program in question on this thread targeted foreign governments, terrorists, etc. The Supreme Court has ruled that the 4th amendment protects US citizens home and abroad BUT only foreign nationals inside of the United States (http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2819&context=flr) The government has strong legal grounds for the program and procedures of due process and oversight.
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