It looks like yesterday’s Verizon story was, as many suspected, the tip of the iceberg:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues. …
The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
I have to put Sal 11000 Beta to bed so I commend you over to Hot Air’s coverage, which is extensive and troubling. This has been building up for over a decade and will culminate, this fall, in the construction of a facility that will basically store all internet communications.
Hope you like Big Brother. ‘Cuz we’re living it now.
Update: A few more thoughts. The story is still in breaking stages. Some government sources are claiming they are not, in fact, data mining. We’ll see what comes out. But let’s proceed with the idea that these reports are accurate — that meta-data on all communications is being stored and that actual data from computer communications is being monitored.
First, I think we need to appreciate just how deep the rabbit hole goes here. Consider that, earlier this week, the Supreme Court gave authorities permission to, upon any arrest, take your DNA and run it against a database of crimes. If the government really is storing all your internet communications (the technical challenges boggle the mind) then, upon arrest, they can search your internet record — which currently has no warrant protection — for anything. Did you send a nudie picture to someone when you were 15? Did you have an IRC where you talking about getting high? Did you get a pop-up window with cartoon porn in it? That’s all in play now.
Second, this thing has been created by both parties. It started in 2007 under George Bush and is reaching its apotheosis under Barack Obama. Neither party has seriously opposed any provision of the Patriot Act or supported any privacy protections. We are being double-teamed here, people.
Third, the usual suspects are emerging to claim that these programs are necessary and have probably already saved us from terrorism. I am highly dubious of this. We have seen this kind of thing before when Osama bin Laden was killed. Everyone who supported a questionable or illegal program claimed it played a key role. But moreover, is this a price we are willing to pay? To have all of our communications monitored? Are we willing to live Big Brother because somehow, somewhere, someone might set off a bomb? If you think it is worth it, please do not ever ever quote Benjamin Franklin on the subject of security and liberty.