Saturday, June 8, 2013

PRISM Schism

Heads or Tails?

- By: Larry Walker II -

Carla Dean: “Well, who's gonna monitor the monitors of the monitors?” – Quotes from Enemy of the State

PRISM is allegedly a covert collaboration between the NSA, FBI, and nearly every tech company you rely on daily. PRISM has allegedly allowed the government unprecedented access to your personal information for at least the last six years. I say allegedly because every tech company in question denies its existence.

According to the Washington Post:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets… Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

However, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have all given full-throated denials of any involvement whatsoever. According to Google (emphasis mine):

You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

Schism

Now we hear that the federal government may be launching an investigation in order to find the person who leaked details regarding PRISM to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. In other words, the government wants to know who, within its ranks, blew the whistle. Sounds like another government-manufactured conundrum to me.

Great, so now the government is going to waste time and resources finding out who leaked the details of a program which never existed. Seems to me like the White House would be a great place to start, especially since its Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes, has a master’s degree in fiction-writing from New York University. What's up with that? I mean, in the mind of a fiction writer, wouldn’t it seem like one of the best ways to deal with a series of scandals would be to manufacture an even bigger one, and then quash it?

By that time won’t everyone have forgotten about Benghazi, the IRS Scandal, James Rosen, Eric Holder, Verizon, the Budget Crisis, Illegal Immigration, the Secret Kill List, Obamacare and everything else? Well, not in the real world. Nevertheless, for my two cents, if there is a leak investigation, in an effort to save both time and precious taxpayer resources, it should be performed by a Special Prosecutor, and should begin and end at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Addendum

I've actually known about Comverse Technology, Inc. since around 1994. The company merged with Verint Systems, Inc. early this year. This video discusses how the Verint Communications and Cyber Intelligence products and solutions help make the world a safer place (i.e. a less private place).

Verint CIS Solutions from Verint on Vimeo.

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