FISA NSA Security

The Guardian Walks Back Prism Allegations

via LGF, The Guardian has changed their story on Prism, however this is not a correction to the original report.

The Guardian revealed last week that seven technology companies – Google, Facebook, Skype, PalTalk, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo – were involved in the Prism surveillance scheme run by the NSA.

The Guardian understands that the NSA approached those companies and asked them to enable a “dropbox” system whereby legally requested data could be copied from their own server out to an NSA-owned system. That has allowed the companies to deny that there is “direct or indirect” NSA access, to deny that there is a “back door” to their systems, and that they only comply with “legal” requests – while not explaining the scope of that access.

Transferring “legally requested data” to the NSA is a far cry from having the ability to “directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.” Furthermore, the latest incarnation of the story alleges that information is transferred to an “NSA-owned system,” which is a direct contradiction to the original report that alleged the NSA had direct access to the servers of Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

From the original Greenwald report:

The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

It’s unlikely Greenwald will issue a correction, clarification, or an apology, leaving it up to other writers to speak for The Guardian.

We don’t know if categorizing the transfer of information as a “drop box” system is accurate, however it seems clear that information is not unilaterally seized from company servers and that companies only comply with legally-binding FISA court orders.

  • So. Bush instituted a system where they were vacuuming up the Internet every day, no warrants, by executive order, and the telcos weren’t allowed to say a word. They listened to people’s conversation, based on the second article war powers of the executive. They were “disappearing” people in secret prisons so that foreign intelligence services could torture them in their own expert ways. And then we tortured them ourselves, and sent them to Guantanamo in red suits, like they were the devil. No legal proceedings at all.

    The Democrats appear to have regularized the procedures. You need a reason to use the phone number database, and the only reason you can is terrorism. It’s not a warrant, true, where you have to make a bill of particulars, but how could you know particulars? One tool is doing a little algorithm and finding suspicious phone patterns. According to Clapper, you need to have, say, a known terrorist’s number to start off. Who did THIS phone call? In what patterns? Oh, five people in the United States. Okay, time for an investigation. Who are these guys? What websites are they going to? Oh, that one in Pakistan that’s a known “nest”? Where they get orders? Yeah, I think police should know that.

    Meanwhile, no more torture. Close the secret prisons. Make the whole information-seeking process more of a regularized legal structure. Expend political capital trying to close Guantanamo. Oh, yeah, Obama is Stalin.

    The most salient fact is what I learned on the Daily Show last night: the leaker is a Ron Paul supporter. And Libertarianism, and the left crusaders, is nothing but a fervor with zero pragmatic use.

  • Remember Watergate? The good old days of journalism? How many sources did they need? At least two, right? How can you treat what this Deep Throat says? Is he trustworthy? Remember the scene where they went with an iffy confirmation from their second source? That turned out to be untrue? There’s only one really significant fact here: this kid is a Ron Paul donor. Now, I’m not going to go on a witch hunt, but it just localizes what has been fishy all along about this “noble leaker.”

  • muselet

    It’s telling that it’s The Guardian providing this additional information and not the person who wrote the original piece (and who then taunted James Clapper about it on Twitter). Someone might be getting worried about the paper’s journalistic integrity.

    –alopecia

  • LTanya Spearman

    All the media hero worshippers, who are so complicit making a hero of Snowden, who thinks poor widdle China is being hurt by big bad Obama…. I what like to hear one media person (print or t.v.) to question, what other National Security secrets he has divulged to the Chinese…
    http://www.businessinsider.com/snowden-us-has-been-hacking-china-2013-6

  • i_a_c

    Looks like Snowden might have abused his position as a sysadmin to release highly classified information, after all. Hard to see this not moving to some kind of prosecution since he clearly exceeded his role to access documents for which he lacked the need-to-know and divulged them.

    • i_a_c

      Man, right after I post this, I find out that he told Chinese newspapers that we’ve been hacking them.

      That’s way, way beyond the pale. He’s just in the business of fucking over the USA internationally now. He could be charged with aiding foreign governments, which actually has a chance of sticking, much moreso than Baby Jesus Manning (thanks Villemar). Any inkling of benefit that he might have brought to the table by bringing the Verizon order to light is now out the window, and then some.

      He can rot behind bars for all I care. Exposing a secret program in the US is one thing; disclosing classified programs to foreign nationals is quite another.

      • stacib23

        He is also saying that the US is trying to kill him.

        • i_a_c

          He and Ron Paul both. Birds of a fucking feather.

          • D_C_Wilson

            Right after they kill Alex Jones, right?

  • MrDHalen

    If the NSA is going to the FISA court and getting warrants, then this story is dead. This story was news when the Bush administration wanted to do this without involving a US court. The courts are involved now and members of both parties in congress are briefed on NSA activities.

    Josh Marshall does a good job of making the point that “I still believe in my countries not-perfect, but better than most government.” The only people still pushing this as some kind of major story are the people who want to blow-up our system of government for who knows what else, and the people who believe nothing bad will happen to us if we just be nice to other people.

    • nathkatun7

      Exactly, MrDHalen!

    • D_C_Wilson

      Be rest assured, Fox will be breathlessly reporting on this for months to come.

  • “companies only comply with legally-binding FISA court orders”

    Scandalous to some………….the whacko Paul men, for example.

    • D_C_Wilson

      I for one won’t sit by idly while US corporations comply with the law!

  • missliberties

    The media has failed us on so many levels. Whatever this dude is, he is not a whistle blower.