Ryan Gallagher writes: On Wednesday, Glenn Greenwald and I revealed new details about the National Security Agency’s efforts to radically expand its ability to hack into computers and networks across the world. The story has received a lot of attention, and one detail in particular has sparked controversy: specifically, that the NSA secretly pretended to be a fake Facebook server in order to covertly infect targets with malware “implants” used for surveillance.
This revelation apparently infuriated Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg so much that he got on the phone to President Barack Obama to complain about it. “I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post Thursday. “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”
That wasn’t all. Wired ran a piece saying that the NSA’s widespread use of its malware tools “acts as implicit permission to others, both nation-state and criminal.” Slate noted that the NSA’s hacking platform appears to be “becoming a bit more like the un-targeted dragnets everyone has been so upset about.” Meanwhile, Ars Technica wrote that the surveillance technology we exposed “poses a risk to the entire Internet.”
In response, the NSA has attempted to quell the backlash by putting out a public statement dismissing what it called “inaccurate” media reports. The agency denied that it was “impersonating U.S. social media or other websites” and said that it had not “infected millions of computers around the world with malware.” The statement follows a trend that has repeatedly been seen in the aftermath of major disclosures from documents turned over by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in which the NSA or one of its implicated allies issues a carefully worded non-denial denial that on the face of it seems to refute an allegation but on closer inspection does not refute it at all. [Continue reading…]