Thursday, October 31, 2013

All your emails are belong to them

The latest NSALeak: the NSA and GCHQ are spying on Google and Yahoo, and therefore on you:

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.


The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.

This isn't targeted interception, just a bulk data trawl, and against American companies. Which presumably is why their ever-reliable patsies GCHQ are involved: to launder the data and circumvent restrictions on domestic spying. Which raises an obvious question: is the GCSB helping with this program? Are they tapping our google searches and gmail messages for the Americans (who then of course will make anything about kiwis available to them, according to the principle of "you circumvent my laws, and I'll circumvent yours")?

Meanwhile, it now seems that the NSA's mass-spying on Spanish citizens was the product of collusion with Spain's spies, who appear to have sold out the privacy of their own citizens (and broken Spanish anti-wiretapping laws) for snuggles with the hegemon. Again there are very ugly words for this sort of thing, and it raises an uncomfortable question: what does a nation do when its spies are all quislings, traitors, and servants of a foreign power?

Here in New Zealand, we pay $60 million a year to fund a local branch of the NSA to destroy our privacy and undermine our foreign relations. We shouldn't be. Parliament should defund, disband, and destroy this agency - and the quicker, the better.