Skip to main content

Just as we have long suspected

The dam of secrecy sure has sprung a few leaks lately. As the FISA battle wears on, we find out more and more how the government has co-opted various companies and organizations to do their illegal surveillance on American citizens. We known about the phone companies, of course, but this past week we heard about the US Postal Service helping out. And now, confirming what many of us have long suspected, we see that Google and Microsoft have been playing, too. Their role may be the most important one of all.

Little-noticed comments by a senior Justice Department official suggest Congress’ fight over renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surround interception of email and Internet data.

At a Monday breakfast sponsored by the American Bar Association, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth Wainstein remarked that the fight over the eavesdropping bill actually centers on US interception of email.

“In response to a question at the meeting by David Kris, a former federal prosecutor and a FISA expert, Wainstein said FISA’s current strictures did not cover strictly foreign wire and radio communications, even if acquired in the United States,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday. “The real concern, he said, is primarily e-mail, because “essentially you don’t know where the recipient is going to be” and so you would not know in advance whether the communication is entirely outside the United States.”

Unlike phone calls, email messages are generally stored before being transmitted to the sender. Most messages are stored on an email provider’s servers before they are accessed by the recipient.

Because they can be located anywhere, this means any portion of the law related to the Web could snare Americans’ data overseas.

Microsoft declined to comment when asked about their participation in any NSA program, saying only that they have 300 million active email accounts.

Google told CNET: “As our privacy policy states, we comply with law enforcement requests made with proper service. We do not discuss specific law enforcement requests and generally do not share aggregate information about them. There are also some legal restrictions on what information we can share about law enforcement requests.”

Google’s defense here is that they comply with law enforcement requests ‘made with proper service’. And they can’t share that with you, Citizen, but please do sign up for a gmail account right away. Why delete those message? We have unlimited storage!! You’ll never run out of room, so why not just save everything. Yes, please do. You never know when law enforcement will ask us to look at them because we don’t have to tell you, but trust us, you have nothing to worry about.

Did you ever wonder why Google is so generous with the storage? Now you know. ‘Not evil’ indeed.

And regarding the strenuous oversight process? If the Republicans get their way on FISA and telecom immunity, there will be essentially no oversight. The idea of ‘proper service’ for law enforcement requests basically means nothing. From the Washington Post:

Privacy advocates have raised concerns that the Senate bill contains a provision that would allow the attorney general to erect a new barrier to future privacy cases brought under the nation’s foreign intelligence surveillance law.

Contrary to current practice, the Senate bill would halt such lawsuits if the attorney general certifies that the assistance provided by the telecom carrier is lawful. The only check on that certification would be a court review as to whether the attorney general “abused” his discretion, which experts said yesterday is the lowest possible standard of judicial review.

“This provision is yet another example of the executive branch ‘just trust us’ mentality when it comes to intelligence matters,” said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A key congressional aide said that the issue is one that must be reviewed carefully, and a balance must be struck between appropriate court review and avoiding “protracted litigation.”

In other words, if you get spied on and complain, your lawsuit will go nowhere. All these companies need do is say they complied with a legal request, and that request will be certified by the Attorney General, and the only way the certification can be overturned is if a judge determines that the AG abused his discretion. Good luck with that.

Notice how the balance is now between ‘appropriate court review’ and avoiding ‘protracted litigation’. How about putting our Constitutional 4th Amendment privacy rights on the scales there, you sons of bitches!

These people suck.