I just watched the 54-minute Frontline follow-up to the first part The United States of Secrets-Part One: The Program that I wrote about here. You can watch this part also online here. It is well worth watching.
This program deals with how nine major private internet companies internet both wittingly and unwittingly provided information to the NSA under the PRISM program: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google private provide people’s information to the NSA., Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple. They were not just collecting metadata from the companies but the entire content of messages, contradicting president Obama’s statements just after the story broke last June. Glenn Greenwald thinks that Obama’s false statements reflected the fact that he did not know the full scope of the program but I don’t agree. Obama’s shifty manner of speech and stumbling response during the press conference suggests to me that he knew and was lying.
These internet companies thought that they were cooperating with NSA on a limited data sharing program. But an NSA program called MUSCULAR was in addition extracting data from fiber optic cables overseas that connect the data centers of the internet companies. The NSA has no legal restrictions on operations overseas and thus can collect bulk data with impunity. Google was sending this data through its cables in an unencrypted form making the NSA’s work easy. We are told that this has now changed and Google is encrypting
Frontline also interviews Mark Klein whom I wrote about three days ago who, as a technician at AT&T, discovered that a secret room had been created within the AT&T building to insert a splitter to tap into all traffic through the AT&T system and send it to the government. This is the story that then editor of the Los Angeles Times Dean Baquet spiked. Baquet is now the new editor of the New York Times which does not bode well for that paper.
The older telecommunications companies seemed more comfortable being handmaidens of the government than the newer internet companies, and the smaller internet companies seem to be more willing to challenge the government than the bigger ones who do a lot of business with the government and thus want to be on good terms with them. The head of Calyx Nick Merrill, whom I had written about just this morning, also appears on the show. He was the first person who on constitutional grounds challenged the right of the government to get data on the customers using his small webhosting services. He won in an appeals court and the FBI withdrew the letter. The big companies did not similarly challenge the government until 2013, although they had the resources to do so. It was only because of concern about loss of customers that thye did anything
Google turns out to be a really evil company. The program says that Google tried to suppress a Washington Post story about how its use of tracking cookies to gain information on people’s used of the internet was used by the NSA by personally attacking the reporters working on it.
All the big internet companies refused to talk to Frontline, which does not speak well for their ethics.
It is an excellent program. You should watch it.