Madison Ruppert, Contributor
We have devoted a significant amount of coverage to Google’s Big Brother activities – which are set to rise exponentially once their recent troubling patent is put into use – not the least of which includes deliberately stealing personal information from Americans with their Street View vehicles, as well as their connections to the U.S. government and intelligence community.
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The tight-knit relationship between the American government (the intelligence community in particular) and Google is becoming increasingly plain to see.
This was made even more blatant in the decision of the Washington D.C. Circuit appeals court which allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to neither confirm nor deny their relationship with Google.
The NSA – the world’s largest surveillance agency which keeps tabs on Americans and people around the globe – has been given the authority to refuse to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) by the court.
The court ruled that one of the many FOIA exemptions covers any and all documents which supposedly may jeopardize the NSA’s national security mission and that they do not even have to respond to the request.
Potentially, by rejecting the request, they could supposedly reveal some critical secret details of the NSA-Google relationship, according to the court.
“If NSA disclosed whether there are (or are not) records of a partnership or communications between Google and NSA regarding Google’s security, that disclosure might reveal whether NSA investigated the threat, deemed the threat a concern to the security of U.S. Government information systems, or took any measures in response to the threat,” reads the court ruling.
“As such, any information pertaining to the relationship between Google and NSA would reveal protected information about NSA’s implementation of its Information Assurance mission,” they added.
At the time, The Washington Post revealed that the NSA and Google had teamed up to boost their defenses against potential cyberattacks in the future.
Shortly after, Mike McConnell, the director of the NSA, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post which further reinforced the clear ties between the highly secretive spy agency and the internet giant.
“Neither side [meaning the government and the private sector] on its own can mount the cyber-defense we need; some collaboration is inevitable,” McConnell wrote.
This understandably riled many a privacy advocate and EPIC quickly moved to file a FOIA request in an attempt to find out about this clandestine relationship.
The NSA responded with what is referred to as a “Glomar” response, which is the typical refusal to confirm or deny that records relating to the program even exist.
This type of dismissal dates back to a refusal from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) issued when a journalist attempted to obtain information about the “Glomar Explorer” secret underwater vessel.
“We are disappointed by the decision of the DC Circuit,” EPIC director Marc Rotenberg wrote to Andy Greenberg of Forbes.
”The NSA has adopted an increasingly public-facing role with its Information Assurance mission. And of course the agency’s surveillance activities raise profound concerns for Internet users. Under these circumstances, EPIC believed that the agency could not rely on a Glomar response prior to an actual search for responsive records, but the court held otherwise,” Rotenberg added.
I find this decision troubling, to say the least, especially with all of the clear special treatment Google receives, as highlighted by the recent decision surrounding their spying via Street View cars.
Coupling this with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which already passed the House with quite worrisome amendments, the soon-to-be-implemented digital spying scheme spearheaded by internet service providers, the NSA’s massive new cybersecurity/surveillance complex leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, to put it lightly.
The collusion between these private sector giants and government is just becoming more open and brazen. Unfortunately it appears that our courts, our so-called representatives and the regulators have no interest in doing anything.
Should we wait for all of these people to step up to the plate after years of inaction? If you said yes, you’ll probably be waiting for quite a while.
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This article first appeared at End the Lie.