NSA and Big IT Tech

The Government of Germany just announced that it will be cancelling an information technology project with Verizon. The announcement makes clear Germany is doing this because they do not trust that Verizon will or even can safeguard Germany's data and telecommunications from spying by the National Security Administration (NSA).

The German suspicions are heightened because the NSA was discovered via the information released by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that the US had tapped the cellphone of that nation's prime minister.

Indeed, the Snowden revelations included documentation that the NSA had been collecting and examining billions of emails and telephone calls by hundreds of millions of people in dozens of countries. So far, the remedy to this US mass data collection spying has been a promise from President Clinton that we will not listen in on the German Prime Minister's cell phone, a promise to put a consumer advocate before the secret Federal security court and another promise to move the warehousing of these data collections to the phone companies rather than keep them at the NSA. The latter move seems a distinction without a difference.

Many other nations are likely to follow Germany's lead and block telecommunications and Internet services from the big US IT companies.

From the Snowden revelations, other governments are surely taking into consideration the following issues .

1. The NSA is still actively seeking personal, government and corporate data from dozens of other nations. And NSA is deliberately breaking the cyber protections of others to get that data.
2. The NSA is not effectively supervised by the US Congress. Indeed, only a handful of elected yes-people serve on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the rest of Congress -- roughly 90 percent -- are denied key NSA information needed to provide oversight.
3. If anyone in the NSA, contractors, reporters, Members of Congress, Congressional staff or others release any information the NSA considers secret, they can be imprisoned for many years. The obsessive effort to imprison Edward Snowden is what awaits anyone who reveals any NSA materials labeled as secret -- even if the NSA is breaking US laws.
4. Judicial oversight of the NSA is handled by a secret federal court that is nothing but a NSA rubber stamp. It has approved 99.9 percent of NSA requests to monitor telephone and email communications of others.
5. If NSA issues an order to Verizon, Google, Yahoo, Cisco and other Big Tech companies to hand over their customers' data and access to their phone calls, the companies must comply.
6. Also, these US companies are prohibited under criminal penalty from informing their customers, the media or Congress about these orders. Even judicial appeals of these order are kept secret. And the judicial orders are secret. In short, NSA is the beneficiary of a star chamber judicial system.
7. NSA leaders are permitted to lie to the public and Congress. Several instances exist where NSA officials knowingly lied under oath in Congressional hearings, but neither the Congress nor the Justice Department will press perjury charges against these officials.

In short, other governments know that the NSA's widespread and global violation of privacy rights is not controlled by the US Judicial and Congressional Branches. They also know that any promises of reform made by the US telecommunications and Internet companies must be weighed against the fact that their role in this spying is compelled by the US Government, whose officials have repeatedly been caught lying to Congress and the American people about their actions. And they go unpunished.

The only safe prevention to NSA spying in individual countries is the German solution -- that is use national firms for sensitive data handling, and then restrict and closely regulate any US internet companies operating in that nation.

In the months and years ahead, US Big Tech IT and Internet companies face massive losses of market share and tens of billions of dollars of profit for their role in helping NSA violate the privacy of hundreds of millions of people here and in other companies. It does not matter in other nations that these acts were then considered legal by the US Justice Department.

These same US companies are close political supporters of the President and have regularly met with him individually and as a group. They should have used their access to strongly oppose, in private, the NSA's push to use their companies to spy on Americans and people in other nations.

Perhaps as these losses mount, these companies will learn a lesson and support legislation that will enable them to better protect the privacy of people, governments and companies here and abroad.