Yes, Of Course The NSA Pays Tech Companies For Surveillance Efforts

from the taxpayer-money dept

The latest Ed Snowden leak from the Guardian shows that after the FISA court had ruled that aspects of the NSA’s data collection program were unconstitutional, the NSA had to work with tech companies to change their technology to avoid capturing some of the information they weren’t allowed to capture, and, as a result the NSA paid millions to those tech companies via its Special Source Operations. To be honest, this doesn’t seem like a huge bombshell in terms of revelations. It’s long been known that the government pays companies for law enforcement assistance/surveillance (e.g. wiretaps) — and as long as that surveillance is legal, that makes sense and is reasonable. The fact that this cost millions of dollars, however, suggests that it’s a pretty big program.

Either way, while many of the Snowden leaks have been a pretty big deal, this one seems like nothing new. It’s never been a secret that tech companies were required to reveal certain information under court orders, or that the government pays the companies for the cost. The only thing here is that the companies had to change their systems to make sure that the NSA’s collection effort was “in line” with what the FISA Court deemed to be Constitutional. If anything, that makes a lot of sense, as we should want the government to have to cover the costs of making sure that their surveillance efforts are Constitutional. Many of the leaks so far have been a big deal, but this one doesn’t seem all that interesting.

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Companies: google, yahoo

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Comments on “Yes, Of Course The NSA Pays Tech Companies For Surveillance Efforts”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Leak?

Great idea. Nothing will deter gov’t surveillance like the prospect of NOT PAYING A DIME for it.

We’re all better off that the feds are paying. They ought to pay top dollar. If they were getting it for free they’d be even worse than they are now. At least now, every time the spooks ask for a data dump, they need to justify that cost to some bureaucrat upstairs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here's a question for accountants and attorneys

Suppose that public company XYZ was paid $5M by the NSA for their efforts. Is XYZ required to report that income, its source, its amount, etc. in their public filings? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

(I have approximately zero understanding of IRS and SEC requirements, which is why I’m asking for someone who actually has a clue to weigh in on this.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's a question for accountants and attorneys

The report it under “proceeds of crime” I guess.

William Hague, the traitor who signed off on GCHQ spying on British data for the NSA. His claimed legal word-game is to pretend that the USA spying order represents “lawful authority” in the UK and this permits him to authorize spying on Brits via the targetted surveillance order of RIPA.

If the USA order isn’t lawful authority, then the UK one isn’t either. He signed off on an unlawful order.

That’s not even counting the fact that the only order, Parliament authorized him to make was a targeted surveillance order, not a mass data collection of everyone’s data.

A mass collection of everyone data and a promise not to misuse it, is not equivalent to a targetted surveillance order. Not in the USA, not in the UK.

IMHO, William Hague’s a traitor that exposed us Brits to surveillance by a foreign power, violating our fundamental right to privacy. How can we argue politics when everything we say is watched by foreign spooks? How can we campaign under surveillance? Why did he betray our privacy? Will they spy on us to protect his position in politics? If I go out campaigning at the next election for his ejection, can I expect the NSA to prepare secret briefing notes on my campaign? How is what he did not a shameful betrayal of his country?

Anonymous Coward says:

Not paying companies when requiring them to provide service to the government would probably be an unconstitutional “Taking.” The government has been paying the telecom companies market rate (whatever that is) for wiretaps for years; this is the basically the same.

The problem with it happening is that after a while, companies can start to think of it as an expected revenue stream, and then they get in bed with the spymasters. AT&T is probably in that category.

kfreed (profile) says:

Greenwald's misreporting/ Wikileaks alterego

I’ve been saying that the NSA “scandal” (involving Libertarian Glenn Greenwald of Cato Institute and Paulbot Snowden) is another RW fake scandal. It’s not about privacy. It’s about undermining government, specifically the democrat in the White House, for political purposes.

“Assange’s Emerging Politics: Rand Paul And Libertarian Wing of GOP Represent ‘Only Hope'”

Forbes (Page 2): UPDATE: Wikileaks Party under fire in Australia for what some are describing its ?lurch to the right,? revealing in filings that ?they want the fascist Australia First Party, the pro-shooting-in-National-Parks Shooters and Fishers Party , and the ?mens rights activist? Non-Custodial Parents Party to win a seat instead of the Australian Greens. Maybe this really is an international conservative movement.”

NOTE THIS: “What?s fascinating is that Paul (the father, less so the son, who still has aspirations to actual head up the vast government he says he despises) largely rejects a modern view of democracy, claiming that ?pure democracy is dangerous? and that the founders never intended actual democratic rule. ?Democracy is majority rule at the expense of the minority,? wrote Paul last year. ?Our system has certain democratic elements, but the founders never mentioned democracy in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of


Finally, somebody had the balls to say it.

Here’s the Assange for Ron/Rand Paul video:

Really, people? THIS is what we want to be supporting??????????????

Tea partying Rand Paul’s premature 2016 ad sounds suspiciously like Glenn Greenwald, don’t it?

Glenn Greenwald is not a liberal, he’s a RW Libertarian associated with the brothers Koch and their Cato think tank:

THIS Cato think tank:

The Nation: “John Yoo, author of the notorious ?torture memo,? served on the Cato editorial board for Cato Supreme Court Review during the Bush presidency. At the same time, Yoo was writing the Bush administration?s legal justifications for waterboarding, Guant?namo, warrantless wiretapping and more. Yoo also contributed articles to Cato Supreme Court Review and a chapter to a Cato book titled The Rule of Law in the Wake of Clinton criticizing President Clinton?s ?imperial presidency.?

The ?Cato Policy Report? attacked progressive critics of Bush?s ?War on Terror? as ?Terrorism?s Fellow Travelers? in its November/December 2001 issue. Former Vice President of Research Brink Lindsey wrote, ?Most of the America haters flushed out by September 11 are huddled on the left wing of the conventional political spectrum.?

Another Cato executive, Ted Galen Carpenter, former VP for defense and foreign policy studies, enthusiastically supported Bush?s ?war on terror? and called on Bush to invade Pakistan.

The Cato Institute advised the 2002?04 Republican-dominated Congress to commence military strikes in Pakistan in its Cato Handbook for Congress arguing, ?Ultimately, Afghanistan becomes less important as a place to conduct military operations in the war on terrorism and more important as a place from which to launch military operations. And those operations should be directed across the border into neighboring Pakistan.?

Another Cato Institute executive, Roger Pilon, vigorously supported Bush?s attacks on civil liberties. Pilon, Cato?s VP for legal affairs and founding director of the Cato Institute?s ?Center for Constitutional Studies,? supported expanded FBI wiretapping in 2002 and called on Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act as late as 2008.

Greenwald’s only purpose in life is getting Tea party lunatics elected:

“At a talk given the day after the 2010 election ? one that was a disaster for Democrats ? ?progressive? writer and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald gave a talk at the University of Wisconsin, and expressed the hope that Democrats might suffer the same fate in 2012.

Greenwald?s speech mainly focused on civil liberties and terrorism policy ?in the age of Obama.? But it was his approach to politics that got members of the Young Americans for Liberty ? a Paulite Libertarian group that co-sponsored the event ? excited:

Paulites: “The speech was stellar with too many good points to touch on in a single blog post. I would like to point out that in the Q&A at 38:00 Greenwald specifically addresses a possible alliance between progressives and Ron Paul libertarians.”

P.S. Some of us are keeping up with Greenwald’s lying – blow by blow:

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Greenwald's misreporting/ Wikileaks alterego

involving Libertarian Glenn Greenwald of Cato Institute and Paulbot Snowden

Mind if I laugh hard at you? Using labels devoid of meaning is the first thing that helps you identify those who swallow the kool-aid in a single gulp. The rest of your post just confirms it. Are you still scared of the Communist bogeyman?

FM HIlton (profile) says:

Re: Greenwald's misreporting/ Wikileaks alterego

Are you related to Out of the Blue?

Really-you must meet each other, if you’re not.

Two peas in pod, seeing ‘conspiracies’ everywhere!

I call it the “League of the Tin Foil Hats”.

I presume you’re the Vice President of the group, and a founding member.

It’s bad enough with the real stuff. Stop making up the garbage.

Nicholas Weaver (profile) says:

Except for that whole "reputational damage" thing...

Having the companies modify their infrastructure for the benefit of the NSA means although it may be “legal” to tap foreign communications, it means that the US companies are now complicit in attacking their own customers (just not the US customers).

The reputational and economic damage that the NSA is causing dwarfs the few million dollars the companies are gaining. US/UK technology companies now must be considered to be hostile if you are outside of the US/UK.

Anonymous Coward says:

what this definitely shows is, even when they have a choice,ie, not forced by court orders or threats of prosecution, the telco/tech companies, in general, will sell their customers off to the NSA and probably all the other security agencies as well. we’ve seen the disgraceful performance from politicians when ‘encouraged’ to go a particular route by the entertainment industries and Hollywood, so it’s no surprise really that money is everything and people are nothing, until the votes are wanted that is!!

Alt0 says:

But did they actually accomplish it?

I am OK with the court finding something is a “bit” over the line and saying “fix it”

I’m OK with it costing US money to do so and keep the Constitution intact.

What bothers me is US paying money to “fix it” that does not “fix it”.

After the millions does the program NOW fall under “constitutional”?

Right didn’t think it would.

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