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Court Rules NSA Doesn't Have To Confirm Or Deny Secret Relationship With Google 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the mum's-the-word dept.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "A DC appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency doesn't need to either confirm or deny its secret relationship with Google in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and follow-up lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The NSA cited a FOIA exemption that covers any documents whose exposure might hinder the NSA's national security mission, and responded to EPIC with a 'no comment.' Beyond merely rejecting the FOIA request, the court has agreed with the NSA that it has the right to simply not respond to the request, as even a rejection of the request might reveal details of a suspected relationship with Google that it has sought to keep secret. Google was reported to have partnered with the NSA to bolster its defenses against hackers after its breach by Chinese cyberspies in early 2010. But to the dismay of privacy advocates who fear the NSA's surveillance measures coupled with Google's trove of data, the company has never explained the details of that partnership."
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Court Rules NSA Doesn't Have To Confirm Or Deny Secret Relationship With Google

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  • NSA 3 Google (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WatchDogs (2637289) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:32PM (#39972509)
    It's been known for a long time that Google has been secretly working with NSA. You may ask why they do it?

    1) It is beneficial to NSA.

    NSA gets immersive amount of data from Google that they would not otherwise have. Remember that Google logs every and all search requests made, has Google Analytics scripts on basically every site on the internet, owns YouTube (good place to check what videos interest people), and is now trying to compete with Facebook by building the worlds largest social network (with a strict real names only -policy), Google+.

    2) It is beneficial to Google.

    In turn, Google has strong government backing for all their privacy violations, snooping and ignorance of other countries laws. They have and are building a strong relationship with the highest people on US government so that they get free pass on everything and no liability.

    3) Google has got lots of shit lately.

    It aligns with the previous point, but Google has been major target of (valid) lawsuits around the world and U.S. lately. FTC is watching them, KFTC is watching them, European Union is watching them. By strongering their position with someone like NSA they are trying to weasel out of these suits.

    4) Google is a marketing company

    Imagine if you could build yourself as "the marketing company of the internet". You need to gather lots of data for that. By making some favors towards NSA, their upper personal will of course make some back. After all, they are in the same business - snooping people's data. NSA for their purposes, Google for marketing purposes.
    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:38PM (#39972619) Homepage

      It's been known for a long time that Google has been secretly working with NSA.

      Citation needed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They found a red under someone's bed.

      It was a red ant, but they still arrested it and handed it over to the CIA for secret rendition (apparently, it was a Muslim red ant).

      Upon torturing the ant, it told of a jihadist ant terror plot to blow up a grain of sand in Afghanistan.

      The plot was thwarted by the supercops - another victory and high-fives for all them.

      Total cost to the American taxpayer was: $CENSORED IN THE NAME OF NATIONAL SECURITY.

    • 1) It is beneficial to NSA.
      2) It is beneficial to Google. ...

      5) It is beneficial to taxpayers
      If the NSA and Google work together, then the taxpayers don't have to pay the NSA to create an entire duplicate search infrastructure. Once could argue that the government shouldn't be spying on us, but hey, as long as they are doing it anyway, they might as well do it as cost effectively as possible.

      • by TheLink (130905)

        By law the NSA isn't supposed to spy on US citizens. Google and similar corporations are not bound by such laws.

        Some actually have formal prices for such stuff. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/18/microsoft_does_not_charge_for_government_surveillance/ [theregister.co.uk]

        If I were the NSA I'd buy a lot of Google ads in return for even more help- the ads don't actually have to be shown at all. And do a similar thing with Facebook et all too. To get around the pesky laws I could also get Google to do all the dirty work. "We'

      • by KiloByte (825081)

        5) It is beneficial to taxpayers

        Only in the strictly monetary sense. For about anything else, including NSA's stated purpose of providing security for the nation, it goes against the taxpayers as they are either citizens or legal aliens who live in the country.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:34PM (#39972529) Homepage

    What, did EFF ask about cats in boxes or something?

  • by Steve1952 (651150) on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:35PM (#39972567)
    If NSA is not partnering with Google, then probably somebody needs to be fired. If I were them, I probably would have responded with a "well Duh!" comment.
  • Bizarro land... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Friday May 11, 2012 @04:40PM (#39972665)

    As I said on the Wired article, what should Google, a US company, have done when what are likely state or state-backed Chinese hackers thoroughly compromise one of their services?

    *Not* turn to "U.S. authorities”? Do nothing? It's certainly bizarre when a US company under attack by another nation-state would be expected to *not* involve our own government.

    Guess what: our intelligence activities and capabilities are secret, not because we want to "hide them from the public", but because they necessarily remain secret for the precise reasons the courts ruled the way they did in this case: so that our ADVERSARIES don't understand our sources, methods, capabilities, and responses.

    I know most people here believe the NSA is evil, instead of looking across the Pacific to a country that can scarcely wait to displace the US as a global power, while keeping a firm stranglehold on its citizens. I imagine there will be many tired references to the Utah Data Center in the comments section here, too, from people who completely misunderstand the law, and NSA's purpose and missions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes Google should have gone to the US Government, the question is, is the NSA the correct agency? If a system was compromised, shouldn't it be the FBI or Homeland Security and not an agency who's mission is covert (as in spying)?

      • Re:Bizarro land... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:23PM (#39973249) Homepage

        A company maintaining a huge amount of information on a nation's citizens has its security compromised... perhaps they should go to that nation's security administration, or something like that, for help in preventing a recurrence.

        • by KhabaLox (1906148)

          As a US citizen, I'm much more afraid of the NSA (or any US agency) getting access to my Google* account data than I am of any arm of the Chinese government getting access.

          *Same goes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox, etc.

          • by ffflala (793437)

            As a US citizen, I'm much more afraid of the NSA (or any US agency) getting access to my Google*(*& Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox,etc) account data than I am of any arm of the Chinese government getting access.

            If you feel that way, you really have been approaching all of those accounts wrong from the outset. You'd have be in a better position now had you assumed they would be compromised before you created them, and used them accordingly.

            I don't understand why you'd be so concerned about the NSA having your account details, when all of your information has been most certainly churned through any number of private companies, all trying to actively mine your data for profit. Again, you'd be in a better position no

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      That's fine but the government also has a bad habit or classifying things that should not be classified..... like when they covered-up the journalist that had been killed by U.S. soldiers. "We have no idea what happened to him" they told the family, rather than admit they screwed up (and also killed some kids).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Your mistake is in tying defense against the Chinese, and spying against Americans. We don't need secrecy. What made this country great was freedom. What will keep us great, and keep us ahead of the Chinese, is freedom, and control of our government. Even at the expense of immediate security. We can't be free, we can't control the government, if we can't see what it's doing. And if we lose that freedom, then we will be utterly destroyed by the population of China... So in my mind, what th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I agree a lot of things government agencies do is misconstrued as evil and world shattering. Your bias that the NSA is here to do no harm to domestic citizenry is foolish. Yes, many foreign nation-states would love to get their fingers further into our infrastructure. So would many NGO's. So what? Does that mean that the NSA doesn't breech it's own citizen's rights on a daily basis? Because you say so?

      Don't rely on conjecture and what the "nsa.gov"'s mission statement will lead you to believe. Whistle blowe

    • 'Chinese hackers' are almost always a scapegoat, and the US probably pays the Chinese state the lion's share of the budget for the state and state backed hackers.
    • Re:Bizarro land... (Score:4, Informative)

      by genkernel (1761338) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:14PM (#39973123)

      Guess what: our intelligence activities and capabilities are secret, not because we want to "hide them from the public", but because they necessarily remain secret for the precise reasons the courts ruled the way they did in this case: so that our ADVERSARIES don't understand our sources, methods, capabilities, and responses.

      Doesn't this also effect the safety of the public, if the methods, capabillities and legal obligations of the NSA are unknown? Note that the existence of the partnership, according an article in the post linked to by TFA, is already known, and the technical capabillities provided to the NSA by this relationship can therefore be roughly estimated. It isn't like the NSA hasn't violated the US constitution (taking the overly optimistic view that it is still in effect) and due process before.

      I know most people here believe the NSA is evil, instead of looking across the Pacific to a country that can scarcely wait to displace the US as a global power, while keeping a firm stranglehold on its citizens. I imagine there will be many tired references to the Utah Data Center in the comments section here, too, from people who completely misunderstand the law, and NSA's purpose and missions.

      Are you certain it is not you who misunderstands the NSA's purpose and missions? How can you, when the government's interpretation of the law is kept secret? Do you really believe the NSA serves the interests of the people of the USA any more than the TSA? Isn't it possible for both the NSA and the Chinese intelligence agencies to be evil and worthy of mistrust?

    • The NSA is probably quite evil, however they are OUR evil, not the evil belonging to the the Yellow Peril.

      Or so I have been told.

    • Guess who's among the major enablers of your "firm stranglehold"
      on Chinese citizens.

      Btw., I can understand the US would frown upon it -- but displacing
      it as a global power is intrinsically evil how?

    • by kaladorn (514293)
      Your position seems a bit simplistic.

      I do agree that intelligence personel (I know a few in military intelligence and some who were in federal police agencies' intelligence arms) tend to have better things to worry about than average citizens doing average things.

      On the other hand, I've never met an authority figure who couldn't find a use for more power of surveillance if given it. There are also a lot of people in the apparatus who think that those of us not of in the government (or their agency) need wat
  • It starts to bug me. Why are there two types of investigation? 1) "The hacker could not be traced as probably several servers were used". 2) "The IP was from China/Russia, so the hacker too". So since it is politically useful to the Americans to point at China, I suggest all hackers to get one of the computer in China. Best is Russia last with all logs at max, then China, then the usual.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:03PM (#39972993) Homepage Journal

    I'm going to try that when my wife asks me if the transexual hooker named Serene who called the house at 4am looking for her "little man, Ratsie" is someone that I know.

    "I can neither confirm nor deny..."

    We'll see how that works out.

  • to cynically assume the worst. You'll come up just a little short of reality but you won't be very surprised.

    Considering the NSA is currently building the world's largest data warehouse / encryption system http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/1 [wired.com] ... and that google saves everything, and knows who asked the questions.. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/20/AR2006012001799.html [washingtonpost.com], you are well on your way to the NSA knowing what you were looking for, and devisi

  • now the NSA is completely exempt from FOIA?

    they can just ignore ALL requests, and there is no vetting of their reasons. Brilliant.

    Next the CIA and FBI will do the same, so the law becomes meaningless.

    side-note: How does this post fail the lameness filter and look like ASCII art?

    • side-note: How does this post fail the lameness filter and look like ASCII art?

      Too many capital letters. Try s/ALL/<b>all<\/b>/

  • This answers the question. Of course, everyone knew this already.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the same answer the NSA would give if they were asked about a working relationship with any Company in the world.

    They give a blanket, we aren't going to answer that question about everyone. Makes it harder to tell who they are really working with if the response is always the same.

  • Double standards. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Requiem18th (742389) on Friday May 11, 2012 @05:59PM (#39973719)

    Why is the NSA watching me? I've done nothing wrong!
    If you are doing nothing wrong you have nothign to hide!
    Can I see what information you arecollecting then?
    We don't need to respond to FOIA requests.

  • Standard response (Score:4, Informative)

    by tomhath (637240) on Friday May 11, 2012 @06:02PM (#39973763)
    When I had a security clearance "neither confirm nor deny" was what we were instructed to say when asked what we did. If the affiliation with Google is classified then that's the right answer here too.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.yacy.net/en/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SheevaPlug

    Assume Control Of Your Own Data. Encrypt everything. Fuck the Snooping Pork-Barellers !

  • Seriously people, settle down.

    We all know there is No Such Agency and that they have a mandate to secretly try to catch villains involved in our national security. That means, they don't care about your torrent of that cam of some shitty movie you downloaded. Nor do they care how much music you pirate, or even what porn you watch. We have entrusted them with a shroud of secrecy in order to operate under the radar and find bad guys.

    Now when they start breaking that trust for bullshit domestic reasons, if the

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      We all know there is No Such Agency and that they have a mandate to secretly try to catch villains involved in our national security

      ... or they might have some other mandate. We the People have no way of knowing what they've been ordered to do, nor what they're actually doing (which may or may not coincide with what they've been ordered to do, again we have no way of confirming anything)

      Now when they start breaking that trust for bullshit domestic reasons, if they ever do, then we hold their noses to the grindstone.

      And how exactly do we find out whether the NSA is breaking that trust, when all definitive about their activities is classified? What the public does have access to are a number of former NSA officials who've stated publicly that the NSA is committing se

      • by lexsird (1208192)

        I'm not saying it's a perfect world. If you have an axe to grind with them, run it through the system and our representatives. If that doesn't satisfy you, get someone elected in that you trust to take a gander at them via the oversight mechanisms. Poking around with a stick their operations isn't serving anyone. They do have a serious job and we do have a world hell bent on causing us trouble. We have to expect some percentage of shenanigans out of something like this, but it's nothing to go crazy over, it

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Now when they start breaking that trust for bullshit domestic reasons, if they ever do, then we hold their noses to the grindstone.

      OK, they are breaking that trust for bullshit domestic reasons right now, by not revealing the extent of cooperation. We're paying them to spy on US. Fuck THAT.

      • by lexsird (1208192)

        Well, I imagine it's hard to run a secretive national security agency when any passerby who wants to know the company business can poke his or her head in and ask "what's cooking?" and by law get a response. If you feel like they have gone rogue, why not bust the balls of those who have direct oversight of them instead of trying to pry into day to day operations? Want an in depth investigation of and an accountability for their actions? There is a process for that I am sure. But it's not open for prying pub

  • ... where "Don't ask, don't tell" went.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's something I've been saying for at least five years (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there you go).

    Coming up with a credible plan to coax people to hand them over their data willingly is Just The Right Thing To Do for the NSA. One might even argue that they ain't worth their salt if they didn't. For an added bonus, this scheme is financially self-supporting by a comfortable margin.

    So it would have made a hell of a lot of sense for them to "invent" Google.

    Taking into account that NSA employs many of the br

  • When one voluntarily participates in activities via the Internet, does he have a right to believe that he may do so anonymously or in any sort of private forum? I think not. The Internet is the world's largest "public forum". I believe the World Wide Web was designed to be just that--- a public forum for the exchange of ideas and information. I don't believe that Google ever made any representations to the contrary. They have always admitted that they maintain records of the searching activities of all w
  • It used to be that the magic words were "abracadbra" or "presto chango", but now the new magic words are "national security". Those words hypnotize judges into giving the government anything it wants. It seems to even work on corporations: Google, ATT etc.The NSA is the Fight Club. The first rule of the NSA is you don't talk about the NSA

    It leaves me wondering exactly what kind of security system we really have. It seems to be some unholy tangle of secret government combined with corporate indifference to

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