Spy agency will “neither confirm nor deny” existence of relationship
January 5, 2012
The privacy watchdog group EPIC has urged a court of appeals to disclose more information regarding the widely publicized close working relationship between the National Security Agency and Google.
EPIC, short for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has filed an opening brief, challenging the NSA’s response to the group’s Freedom of Information Act request for details on the cybersecurity agreement that the search engine giant shares with the spy agency.
The story hit headlines a year ago in January 2010 following a highly sophisticated and targeted cyber attack on the corporate infrastructure of Google and some twenty other large US companies.
The attack was blamed on the Chinese government, prompting Google to embrace a collaboration with the federal agency in charge of global electronic surveillance.
Anonymous sources informed the Washington Post at the time that “the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information”, adding that the agreement will not allow the NSA access to users’ search details or e-mails.
Nevertheless, news of a burgeoning partnership between Google and the government spy force responsible for warrantless monitoring of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails in the wake of 9/11 raised significant privacy concerns.
After EPIC made an initial FOIA request, the NSA claimed it “could neither confirm nor deny” the existence of any information about its relations with Google, because “such a response would reveal information about NSA’s functions and activities.”
In its opening brief the privacy group argues that records the NSA holds on the subject are not exempt from public disclosure under FOIA request.
“Communications from Google to the NSA do not implicate the agency’s functions and activities, and are therefore not exempt from disclosure.” the brief states.
“Further, some records responsive to EPIC’s FOIA Request concern NSA activities that may fall outside the scope of the agency’s authority. These records are not exempt from disclosure.” it continues.
Google’s partnership with the intelligence network is not new. As we reported in late 2006, An ex-CIA agent Robert David Steele has claimed sources told him that CIA seed money helped get the company off the ground
Speaking to the Alex Jones Show, Steele elaborated on previous revelations by making it known that the CIA helped bankroll Google at its very inception. Steele named Google’s CIA point man as Dr. Rick Steinheiser, of the Office of Research and Development.
“I think Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities, and it doesn’t fund what I call the open source world,” said Steele, citing “trusted individuals” as his sources for the claim.
“They’ve been together for quite a while,” added Steele.
The NSA’s involvement with Google should be treated as highly suspect, given the agency’s track record and its blatant disregard for the Fourth Amendment.
A set of documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in June 2007 revealed that US telco AT&T allowed the NSA to set up a ‘secret room’ in its offices to monitor internet traffic.
The discovering prompted a lawyer for an AT&T engineer to allege that “within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration was planning a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans” That is BEFORE 9/11, before the nation was embroiled in the freedom stripping exercise commonly known as the “war on terror” had even begun.
In late 2007, reports circulated that the NSA had increasing control over SSL, now called Transport Layer Security, the cryptographic protocol that provides secure communications on the internet for web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, and other data transfers.
In 2008, Google denied that it had any role in the NSA’s “terrorist” surveillance program, after first refusing to say if they have provided users private data to the federal government under the warrantless wiretapping initiative.
However, it is clear where Google’s interests lie given that the company is supplying the software, hardware and tech support to US intelligence agencies in the process of creating a vast closed source database for global spy networks to share information.
The government supply arm of Google has also reportedly entered into a number of other contracts, details of which it says it cannot share.
Google’s approach to privacy also came under scrutiny more recently when it was discovered that the company was essentially vacuuming up WiFi network data as it gathered images for its Streetview program.
Google insisted that the practice was a mistake, even though information published in January 2010 revealed that the data collection program was a very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about U.S. residential and business WiFi networks.