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.