Feds Begged Washington Post Reporter Not To Name Companies In PRISM, Because It Worried They'd Stop Cooperating

from the not-to-protect-national-security... dept

At a recent event held by the Cato Institute concerning the NSA's surveillance overreach, Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, who broke the PRISM story and (of course) has been one of the three key reporters on all of the Snowden docs, noted that the feds begged him not to reveal the nine companies listed as participants in the PRISM program. Gellman and the Post refused, noting that the government's reasons for wanting to keep the names out didn't raise any legitimate security concerns, but rather had to do with making life easier for the NSA:
The thing that the government most wanted us to remove was the names of the nine companies. The argument, roughly speaking, was that we will lose cooperation from companies if you expose them in this way. And my reply was "that's why we are including them." Not in order to cause a certain result, or to get you to lose your cooperation but if the harm that you are describing consists of reputational or business damage to a company because the public doesn't like what it's doing or you're doing, that's the accountability we are supposed to be promoting.
Right. That's called journalism: revealing information that the public should know about in order to make its own decisions about what they're doing with their information and privacy, which has been kept from them. Yes, it makes sense for the press to refrain from revealing direct sources and methods of surveillance that create a real national security issue -- but keeping the public in the dark about how the government has been able to compromise these companies isn't a national security issue at all. As we've pointed out in the past, there are plenty of tools in the surveillance toolbox that the public knows exists, which don't make the methods useless any more. For example, traditional phone wiretaps. It's no secret that those exist, and the public can debate the standards under which they're used. And law enforcement still uses them because they're useful.

But that's not what happened with PRISM. Instead, the whole concept was kept entirely secret -- including the overbroad gag orders on the tech companies. That's the troubling part here. There was no ability to have a public discussion over the standards of use. There's a difference between having the press say "wiretaps exist" and "the feds are wiretapping so-and-so right now." The revelation of the PRISM members was more the former, rather than the latter, but the intelligence community keeps pretending it was the latter.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 10:26am

    but keeping the public in the dark about how the government has been able to compromise these companies isn't a national security issue at all

    I'd think that a Government that consistently ignores the Constitution, seems to be walking the same path we've seen before (see fascism) and consistently violates other nations sovereignty is a national security issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    rw (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 10:32am

    Re:

    Absolutely!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 11:08am

    That would be soooo bad!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    So... What are those nine mega-corporations, Mike?

    ODD that you run an item about not revealing those names, but so seldom mention them yourself.

    "overbroad gag orders on the tech companies" -- OKAY, we now know outlines and names, so where are the mega-corporations taking advantage of the swell of publicity so won't be seen as willing co-conspirators? -- And don't point to the phony minor attempt to just reveal a few numbers that we've no way of checking. That's actually institutionalizing the spy system.

    Edward Snowden: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren't fighting for our interests the same way...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 11:24am

    there should not have been a single company cooperating underhandedly with the feds and definitely none of them should have been threatened with legal action or anything else detrimental if they didn't cooperate. what has now happened is that a lot of companies have now lost customer confidence and therefore customers. and it hasn't stopped there when the EU is now refusing to work with the USA and a lot of it's companies!

    this is the sort of thing that happens when a supposedly friendly nation turns round and shits on it's friends! when there are others doing the same thing, that should have more of an alliance with the many rather than the one, especially when the many are a damn sight closer, it beggars belief! what a total screw up the USA paranoia has produced!!

     

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  6.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Is there?

    There's a difference between having the press say "wiretaps exist" and "the feds are wiretapping so-and-so right now."

    Since they were wiretapping everyone, I'm not sure that's technically the case.

     

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  7.  
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    crade (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 11:42am

    Re: So... What are those nine mega-corporations, Mike?

    The link to the original story is in the article..
    The companies listed are
    Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet -companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    There is more fallout yet to come. The deal with the CAs could well blow this up in their faces should the actual proof come out that third party (NSA) now has access to information that should never have been released.

    Over the coming years this stuff will influence dealings with other nations. Already Brazil is raising cane and wanting to do something to eliminate corporate spying. Many parts of the EU are also expressing strong disapproval of such methods and you can bet that governments of those countries are looking at ways to secure their secrets.

    The fallout of distrust will go further into effecting global treaties and the US could certainly have done a better job than it did with trying to cover it all up and hope it blew over.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 12:18pm

    Re: So... What are those nine mega-corporations, Mike?

    You need remedial education.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    It seems almost like the Government is thinking 'they' ARE the nation, and their security is at risk when the public is educated with facts instead of propaganda.

    While you, like myself, seem to believe that the people are the nation and we need the facts about what our 'representatives' are doing, supposedly in our name (and as I'm sure some of the rest of the world sees it, with our permission...), in order to ensure our security.

    There are far more of us (citizens) than there are of them (gov't officials) so we need to make the change. We damn sure better get out for the next election and VOTE OUT EVERY SINGLE INCUMBENT! If they're really good, we can put them back in after we've set term limits, campaign finance reform, and government benefit/compensation reform (they shouldn't get to vote their own raises and benefits with our money....that should be our vote), but we need a clean slate, and we need people willing to actually work for the job, not old, arrogant bastards who've been there so long they have no fear of losing their seats or their lobbyist sponsors by sitting on their thumbs for a few weeks while millions of us WISH WE HAD WORK TO GO TO!

    I say next time we don't just rock the vote....Let's tip the damn vote over!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re:

    Also, vote third party because right now all the filth squeezed out of the rectums known as the republican and democrat parties stink bad enough to give one a headache...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 3:23pm

    I originally gave us ten years before the hatchet fell. I now don't think we'll get to the end of Obamalamadingdong's tenure. Wonder who will take us over??
    .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 11th, 2013 @ 4:32pm

    Re:

    No need to wonder, because the answer is obvious: multinational corporations.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2013 @ 9:09pm

    Re: Re:

    Heck, they already own us. I shouda remembered.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2013 @ 8:04am

    There's an old quote from George Orwell that seems particarly apt in this case:
    "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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