This Week In Techdirt History: More NSA Madness
from the closer-look dept
Five Years Ago
The ongoing fallout of the Edward Snowden leaks heated up again this week, so we’re taking another break from the five/ten/fifteen-year retrospective to dig into what happened this week in 2013.
The feds had waited until late the previous Friday to quietly release details of a criminal case that used information from NSA surveillance, but this news was quickly overshadowed by new leaks showing the NSA had collected millions of phone records in Italy and Spain, in addition to the previous revelations about France, and of course about spying on world leaders. Speaking of which, Obama was denying that he knew anything about the NSA spying on Angela Merkel’s phone, and was apparently quietly telling the NSA to quit spying so much on the UN (or perhaps just quit getting caught). The Merkel scandal was threatening to scuttle the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations, while the NSA was apparently pretty furious at the administration for denying knowledge — and Mike Rogers was insisting Congress knew about it to, and attacking (with video!) the lawmakers who said that wasn’t the case. As for the European bulk collection targets, Mike Rogers was saying they should be thrilled that the US is helping to keep them safe, though it later turned out that those countries’ own intelligence agencies were heavily involved. This was one of many conflicting messages though, with the NSA constantly revising its own exact position.
Congress, however, was trying to push back, with a bill that would stop the worst of the NSA’s excesses. They had no ally in Dianne Feinstein though — she started preparing another bill that would largely codify current practices, then later decided she had changed her mind and agreed the NSA had gone too far, leading NSA officials to admit they were screwed… except then she released her bill anyway and, as expected, it looked like it might even make it easier for the NSA to spy on people.
Of course, there was still more to learn about the NSA this week. James Clapper begrudgingly declassified documents that showed the NSA believed it could spy on everyone’s location data based on existing approvals (something they had previously denied they do at all). And then the latest realization from the Snowden docs: the NSA had infiltrated Yahoo and Google servers without the companies knowing. Keith Alexander was on stage at an event while the story broke, and quickly cooked up a misleading response that was later formalized with an official non-denial from the agency. While people tried to figure out how the NSA pulled it off, we figured there was one small silver lining: some tech companies were finally starting to realize they should oppose the NSA.
Believe it or not, that’s not even every NSA post from this week in 2013, but it’s the important news. As a final note, the creator of a parody NSA t-shirt also sued the agency over the legal threats it was sending to him.