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US companies handing over personal data to NSA


A new report  has revealed that thousands of U.S. companies have been handing over personal  information of American citizens to the National Security Agency.


Bloomberg  reported on Saturday that four people familiar with the process said  “technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S.  national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return  receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence.”


The shocking  report came after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the agency  is collecting millions of Americans’ phone records and the computer  communications of foreigners from Google and other Internet  companies.


The new  revelation shows that Internet and phone companies are not the only firms giving  information to the government.


According to the  Bloomberg report, “makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security  providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies” are  handing over personal data to federal agencies.


The report noted  that “along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of  Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such  companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in  the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units.”


In one case,  Microsoft, which is the world’s largest software company, provides intelligence  agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly  releases a fix.


U.S.  Representative Loretta Sanchez said earlier this month that what has been  revealed so far about the NSA surveillance program is “just the tip of the  iceberg.”


The U.S.  government for the first time officially announced the total tab for  intelligence spending in 2010, saying that it spent 80 billion dollars on spy  activities three years ago.


Meanwhile, the  NSA acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court  authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.


Rep. Jerrold  Nadler said that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told  that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst  deciding that.”


An analyst’s  decision is sufficient if the agency wants “to listen to the phone,” without any  other legal authorization required, Nadler said.


However,  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano downplayed the NSA intelligence  leaks.


“I think people  have gotten the idea that there’s an Orwellian state out there that somehow  we’re operating in. That’s far from the case,” she said.


A poll conducted  by The Guardian showed that a majority of American citizens are concerned about  the NSA’s spying programs.


The survey found  that 56 percent of the voters said that they believed Congress had failed to  conduct sufficient oversight of the NSA.


Another survey, conducted by  Rasmussen Reports, found that 57 percent of respondents believe that it is  likely the NSA data will be used by other U.S. government agencies to harass  political opponents.