Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt met with the NSA, according to leaked email exchanges obtained by Al Jazeera.
The emails, which were obtained by Al Jazeera under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, asked Schmidt and Brin to meet to discuss potential cybersecurity threats from other countries.
The meetings themselves don’t sound too crazy, but they do raise questions as to how the NSA used the information it learned from Google and other tech companies in order to spy on people, especially considering that the NSA had secretly gained access to the main communications links connecting worldwide data centres of Yahoo and Google.
At the time, Google was “outraged” that the NSA was snooping on its networks. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt even said at the time: “It’s really outrageous that the NSA was looking between the Google data centres, if that’s true.”
On June 28, 2012, Alexander sent an email inviting Schmidt to a “classified threat briefing” at a “secure location” in San Jose, California, on Aug. 8, 2012.
According to the email, Alexander met with industry execs earlier in the month, but now wanted another meeting.
“About six months ago, we began focusing on the security of mobility devices,” Alexander wrote. “A group (primarily Google, Apple and Microsoft) recently came to agreement on a set of core security principles. When we reach this point in our projects we schedule a classified briefing for the CEOs of key companies to provide them a brief on the specific threats we believe can be mitigated and to seek their commitment for their organisation to move ahead … Google’s participation in refinement, engineering and deployment of the solutions will be essential.”
Al Jazeera says:
The classified briefing cited by Alexander was part of a secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF), and his email provides some rare information about what the ESF entails, the identities of some participant tech firms and the threats they discussed.
Alexander explained that the deputy secretaries of the Department of Defence, Homeland Security and “18 US CEOs” launched the ESF in 2009 to “coordinate government/industry actions on important (generally classified) security issues that couldn’t be solved by individual actors alone.”
But, according to the emails, Schmidt did not attend this second meeting. “General Keith.. so great to see you.. !” Schmidt wrote. “I’m unlikely to be in California that week so I’m sorry I can’t attend (will be on the east coast). Would love to see you another time. Thank you !”
Brin attended previous meetings of the ESF group, but he couldn’t attend the Aug. 8 briefing in San Jose because of a scheduling conflict, according to the emails.
Still, there likely isn’t much to worry about. As Engadget notes, “wild conclusions” shouldn’t be drawn from the email exchanges, and that “Google’s emails with the security agency hardly implicate the company in any wrongdoing.”
Read the full text of the emails below: