– Google led a charge by internet and social media firms demanding that the Obama administration allow them to reveal details of their cooperation with government surveillance schemes – as angry members of Congress urged tighter controls on the mass eavesdropping.
Afraid that clients were reading the current kerfuffle as proof that data was being turned over wholesale to the likes of the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency, Google chief counsel David Drummond wrote to the Justice Department: “[Our] numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.”
Facebook chimed in, with a statement saying it would “welcome the opportunity to provide a transparency report that allows us to share with those who use Facebook around the world a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond”.
The secrecy that binds the companies sparked angry statements by members of Congress, some of whom accused intelligence officials of deliberately misleading them in classified briefings.
Choreographed statements of support for the surveillance by the leadership of both parties and a more expansive, but secret, intelligence briefing of the whole House of Representatives failed to take the heat out of what appears to be a bipartisan, backbench demand for greater accountability.
Warning that the catch-all Patriot Act, the Bush administration’s legislative response to the September 11 attacks, was an extraordinary measure that ought to have had a limited life, Democrat congressman Xavier Becerra said after the briefing: “We’re now glimpsing the damage.”
Describing the surveillance as “spying on Americans”, his party colleague Bill Pascrell offered: “This is one of the first briefings I’ve been to where I actually learnt something.”
Invoking the privacy protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment, California Republican Tom McClintock said: “Going back to the days of British rule we have sought to stop the authorities barging in on people’s privacy just in case they found something.”
The focus of much congressional anger was James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, over testimony he gave to the Senate in March this year.
When Democrat senator Ron Wyden asked him, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”, Mr Clapper answered “No, sir – not wittingly”.
The surveillance program is under legal challenges, with the American Civil Liberties Union suing on the grounds it tramples the rights to free speech and privacy.
At the same time, ACLU and other rights organisations have launched a website – – to protest at widespread surveillance in the name of combatting terrorism.
Last heard from in Hong Kong, the man at the centre of the scandal, Edward Snowden, has gone to ground – and advice is coming thick and fast on how he might evade US efforts to capture him.
Officials in Moscow and Russia would consider an asylum application and legal experts are warning that Mr Snowden is misguided in his belief that authorities in Hong Kong will shield him from any US dragnet. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, urged Mr Snowden to head for Latin America, in an interview on ABC TV’s ‘Lateline’ on Monday.
Mr Snowden says he chose Hong Kong because of its “commitment to free speech and the right to political dissent”. But citing documents showing that Hong Kong cooperated in the CIA’s controversial below-the-radar movement of dissidents around the globe, a process called “rendition”, the New York-based Human Rights Watch advised the 29-year-old American to move on.
However, it seems that Mr Snowden could buy time, perhaps months, if he opted to stay in Hong Kong – a Hong Kong High Court decision in March has rendered the island’s asylum laws inoperable and experts say that all current applicants for asylum are entitled to remain in Hong Kong until the anomaly is rectified.
Mr Snowden was an employee of the defence and intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, not directly of the NSA.
On Tuesday, the firm issued a brief statement, confirming that Mr Snowden had begun working for it in Hawaii as recently as March and that, in the wake of the leaks, he had been fired.
The revelations have left Americans reeling in wonder at the illusory nature of privacy in a post-September 11 world. But some are suggesting that it is the media’s treatment of the contents of the Snowden leaks that is illusory.
In the ‘Washington Post’, respected columnist Walter Pincus quoted a 2006 report in ‘USA Today’ that disclosed the NSA “has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses…by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans – most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyse calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.”
Pincus also cited a March 2012 report from ‘Wired’ magazine, in which author and intelligence expert James Bamford described the NSA’s $US2 billion new data centre in Utah and it’s capacity to “intercept, decipher, analyse and store vast swaths of the world’s communications” – Paul McGeough


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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