Wolf Richter writes: The cloud is where the NSA goes to pick through everyone’s data. Under the PRISM program, revealed by Snowden some time ago, the NSA has enjoyed easy access to user accounts and their data. Companies cooperate. It’s permitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We just didn’t know about it.
MUSCULAR is darker. It secretly targets American companies. Google and Yahoo have been named in top-secret documents that Snowden had pilfered and that landed at the Washington Post. To get around legality issues in the US, the NSA broke into Google’s and Yahoo’s overseas data centers. If you have anything in the cloud – and you do, whether you want to or not – it’s stored in numerous locations, including overseas.
In March last year, when David Petraeus was still CIA Director, before emails, ironically, about an extramarital affair unraveled his career, he spoke at the In-Q-Tel CEO Summit. He was accompanied by NSA specialists. He raved about how startups that had been funded by In-Q-Tel – the CIA’s venture capital branch – were “providing enormous support to us as we execute various critical intelligence missions.” He talked about “innovative technologies developed by the firms represented in this room.”
It was just a speech, and no one really paid attention. But he was disclosing the true nature of our perfect surveillance society, on the eve of the Snowden revelations.
“We have to rethink our notions of identity and secrecy. In the digital world, data is everywhere,” he said. “Data is created constantly, often unknowingly and without permission” – emphasis mine. “Every byte left behind reveals information about location, habits, and, by extrapolation, intent, and probable behavior.” The data “that can be collected is virtually limitless,” he said, which presented “enormous intelligence opportunities.” And in closing he thanked the executives and tech gurus for “helping to keep America’s Intelligence Community at the forefront of global innovation.”
So far, the Snowden revelations have shown exactly that: an intense, hand-in-glove cooperation between the Intelligence Community and American tech companies, from scrappy startups to corporate mastodons, at every level, whether adding backdoors to Windows operating systems or compromising the keys to encryption.
But the revelations about the MUSCULAR program show that, in parallel, the NSA also worked against these tech companies – Google and Yahoo so far, but more documents are likely to trickle out, as they have done in the past, like Chinese water torture, to reveal that other American companies got hit as well. [Continue reading…]