Greenwald: We never claimed “direct access” was true

Glenn Greenwald continues to spin his Guardian PRISM overreach
Media • Views: 24,385

Today, in his regular “On Security and Liberty” Guardian column, Glenn Greenwald sought to address some of the criticisms of his PRISM reporting. As when asked about his “direct access” claims in a recent interview, Greenwald again framed his PRISM story as not being about details of any actual program, but instead, as being about the discrepancy between his read on the leaked PowerPoint slides and the denials from internet companies (and the government).

Here’s the relevant part of Greenwald’s new column:

On PRISM, partisanship and propaganda

The Guardian has not revised any of our articles and, to my knowledge, has no intention to do so. That’s because we did not claim that the NSA document alleging direct collection from the servers was true; we reported - accurately - that the NSA document claims that the program allows direct collection from the companies’ servers. Before publishing, we went to the internet companies named in the documents and asked about these claims. When they denied it, we purposely presented the story as one of a major discrepancy between what the NSA document claims and what the internet companies claim, as the headline itself makes indisputably clear:

The NSA document says exactly what we reported. Just read it and judge for yourself (PRISM is “collection directly from the servers of these US service providers”). It’s endearingly naive how some people seem to think that because government officials or corporate executives issue carefully crafted denials, this resolves the matter.

As a reminder, here are some of the most explosive allegations found in Greenwald’s original PRISM article:

NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

UPDATE at 6/14/13 6:24:26 pm by Charles Johnson

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