A common reaction to the news that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting most if not all of the electronic communications of American citizens: As long as if I’m not doing anything illegal, what’s the big deal?
Whistleblower Edward Snowden, 29-year old employee of Booz Allen, provided an answer to that question during his interview with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald (emphasis ours):
“It’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody — even by a wrong call — and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision decision you’ve even made, ever friend you’ve discussed something with, and attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”
Some people (including BI’s Henry Blodget) are sceptical about Snowden’s stunning claims, but it should be noted that the alleged ability of the NSA to collect Internet traffic and crunch it to profile any American has been corroborated by several other reporters and whistleblowers.
First of all, in April 2012 Wired’s James Bamford — author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” — reported how the U.S. government hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap AT&T.
AT&T engineer Mark Klein discovered the “secret room” at AT&T central office in San Francisco, through which the NSA actively “vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” through the wiretapping rooms, emphasising that “much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”
Furthermore, New York Times writers James Risen and Eric Lichtblau — who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for this story on warrantless government surveillance — report that “Verizon had set up a dedicated fibre-optic line … allowing government officials to gain access to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations centre.”
William Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history — has been very vocal since building the original program that crunched that data to identify, in real time, networks of connections between individuals based on their electronic communications.
“I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time,” Binney told documentarian Laura Poitras while she was investigating the NSA’s $2 billion data storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah.
“More and more services like Google and Facebook have become huge central repositories for information,” Dan Auerbach, a technology analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Times. “That’s created a pile of data that is an incredibly attractive target for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”
The scary thing, as Snowden points out, is that the bulk of the attractive targets arising from that data are innocent Americans.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.