Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Learnable lessons from Manning, Snowden and inevitable others 19 – challenges to credibility while seeking increased power and authority 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, in the News by Timothy Platt on January 2, 2014

This is my twentieth posting on what is becoming a series of leaks and unauthorized disclosures of classified US government documents that relate to its War on Terror (see John Peter Zenger, Henry L. Stimson, Edward J. Snowden and the challenge of free speech and the first eighteen postings to this series, available at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 as postings 225 and loosely following.)

The United States has been actively conducting a series of interconnected, open ended surveillance programs, with a goal of gathering in as much information as possible, on as many people as possible. But they have not been doing this entirely alone. Many of their most far-reaching intelligence gathering programs in this have been carried out in collaboration with allied governments and their national security departments and services. And as I have already been discussing here, and certainly in Part 18 of this series, a great deal of this activity has also been conducted with the participation, willing or otherwise of private sector businesses, with that list including both strictly United States based organizations, and businesses that have an explicitly international and even global reach.

My goal for this posting is to discuss this complex of issues, with a focus on the repercussions that growing public awareness of these surveillance programs have had on this wide range of governmental and private sector participants. I begin that with this installment by identifying some of the governmental participants in this and for both the United States and for its involved partners in its War on Terror. And after at least starting a discussion of who is involved here and what the consequences of this are to them, I will explicitly turn to consider how the leadership of the US agencies and departments participating in all of this, have sought to leverage their surveillance activity into becoming a route to enhancing their own power and authority.

I begin all of this with a discussion of who is doing this. The first of these programs that I became aware of and the first of them that I wrote about in this blog was PRISM. I will focus in this discussion on that, and on a second massively open-ended surveillance program that I have also been writing about in this blog: XKeyscore. There are other surveillance programs, I add, that could also be included here in this discussion. And I add that it is fairly certain that there are still surveillance programs that have not come under direct public scrutiny too and it is likely that disclosure of them to public awareness would only cause more ripple-effect damage to governments and to private sector organizations drawn into them, and to their credibility too. So I write this as likely representing the tip of a still larger iceberg. With that said, I turn to consider PRISM and XKeyscore.

On the United States side, both PRISM and XKeyscore are directly run out of the offices of the:

National Security Agency (NSA), an agency of the US Department of Defense (DOD),
• And with direct participation of and support of the Central Security Service (CSS) which is also an agency of the DOD,
• The United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), another unit of the DOD,
• The Department of Justice (DOJ),
• The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which used to fall within the purview of the DOJ but that now reports to the DHS,
• The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), another now-DHS entity,
• The larger Department of Homeland Security itself,
• And the Information Awareness Office (IAO) which provides specific expertise on surveillance capabilities and for developing and managing them per se,
• And with all of their surveillance activities in this held under the approvals-process authority of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the FISA court), with data submissions from private businesses and organizations authorized and ordered for compliance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as updated with its Amendments Act of 2008.

A partial list of other governments that have been drawn into this system of US-led surveillance programs would include:

• The Five Eyes agreement nations: these are the signatories of a multinational signals intelligence gathering agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom affiliated countries of Great Britain (through its Government Communications Headquarters), Canada (through its Communications Security Establishment Canada), Australia (through its Australian Signals Directorate), and New Zealand (through its Government Communications Security Bureau),
• Along with France (through its Directorate-General for External Security)
• And Germany (through its Bundesnachrichtendienst – its Federal Intelligence Service.)

I actually write this posting on November 30, 2013 and note that here because it is quite possible that more nation states will be publically identified as being involved in this by the time this posting goes live on this blog on January 2, 2014. I add that I fully expect to see the public emergence and announcement of further points of disagreement between surveillance program-involved nations and their foreign trade partners, and between them and other governments that they have entered into association with. But already, every nation that has publically come to be associated with these open-ended and internationally reaching surveillance programs has seen specific negative responses for their participation. Australia, for example has faced threats of trade cut-backs at the very least from Indonesia and other countries that they have traditionally worked with and traded with on a close and collaboratively coordinated basis. Canada is now coming under increasing pressures and resistance from its international trading partners too. And every country or organized group of nations that mandates strictly defined and enforced requirements for limiting access to and use of personal information (e.g. the European Union has reacted too, and generally from both their own citizens and citizen groups, and through formal governmental responses and even with accusations and challenges made against fellow member nations. This can get complicated, with for example Germany deeply involved in both PRISM and XKeyscore, and in more as well – but with their Chancellor, Angela Merkel making harsh accusations against the United States government because her own cell phone and other supposedly confidential communications were caught up in these same surveillance programs too.

Just citing Canada as a specific case in point for the impact of all of this, their legal system contains within it very explicit law that seeks to protect personal privacy and the protection of personally identifiable and other sensitive information, and for all of their citizens and for foreign nationals residing in or even simply traveling through Canada while there. Going further, Canadian law seeks to protect the privacy and personal information of anyone physically anywhere who does business with Canadian companies or other organizations under conditions in which those organizations gather their personal information. Word of these surveillance programs has generated both international conflict for Canada and also conflict within its borders where their own citizens protest and challenge their government’s participation in these programs – and for violating Canadian law in the process.

Governments that have been drawn into participating in these surveillance programs or at the very least condoning them have faced backlash, and both from the outside and from within. And, again citing Part 18 of this series, businesses that operate in or out of these countries have seen direct backlash responses against them too – and if for no other reason, because of concern that they cannot live up to their terms of their intended privacy and confidentiality policies even if they actively seek to do so. China as a particular case in point has reacted very explicitly in that regard in reconsidering business and trade agreements between their businesses and those of companies located in or based in the above listed countries because of their involvement in these surveillance programs.

With that in place, I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider how the leadership of the US agencies and departments participating in all of this, have sought to both further expand these programs and to leverage all of their activity here as a route to enhancing their own power and authority. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and in my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page. I am also listing this under my In the News posting category.


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