Why news that the NSA is listening to our phone conversations isn’t news at all

by tech on July 7, 2014

The latest Edward Snowden disclosures this week show that the NSA vacuumed up far more data on far more Americans. In fact 9 out of 10 of people whose accounts were caught up in the data dragnet were not targets of any investigation. Now we’ll wait for the reactions to roll in from U.S. tech companies that are trying to paint themselves as worthy stewards of customer information.

Industry execs ranging from Cisco CEO John Chambers, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and HP EVP Bill Veghte have all said that U.S. government data collection has put tech vendors behind the eight-ball as they try to sell technology — from networking hardware to cloud computing. Google, Facebook and other companies are pressuring the government to be more transparent — or let them be more transparent — about what customer data intelligence agencies ask for.

But let’s face it: People who are surprised by the latest Snowden disclosures should not be. Previous NSA whistleblowers already told the world that the NSA has been collecting their email and phone conversations for a quite some time.

Two years ago, William Binney, Thomas Drake, and Kirk Wiebe said post-9/11  U.S. intelligence agency eavesdropping would also use tools developed under the Obama Administration’s Big Data initiative to stockpile people’s conversations via email or phone.  Binney and Drake testified this week for the German Bundestag about U.S. “mass data collection.” This is not an idle inquiry in Germany — Snowden has alleged that the U.S. listened into phone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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