The following is the 15th in a series of excerpts from my New York Times bestseller “Stonewalled,” which recounts the government intrusions of my computers. More excerpts to follow. Links to previous excerpts are below.
Snowden reveals how the NSA has obtained direct access to the systems of all the trusted Internet giants that Americans commonly use, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, as part of a program called Prism. Through Prism, government officials can collect the search
histories, emails, file transfers, and live chats of ordinary, law-abiding citizens. The depth and breadth of the surveillance is mindboggling. The implied privacy violations and government overreach confound normal alliances. Some Democrats strongly question the initiatives. Many Republicans defend it.
Drip, drip becomes gush, gush, gush as a rolling wave of Snowden revelations washes up one sensitive and embarrassing government secret after another. Like the government’s controversial April 2013 order from the clandestine Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The order compelled Verizon to provide the NSA, on an ongoing basis, all of its call detail records, or “telephony meta- data.” Not only for calls that go abroad, but also for ones that take place wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls. The initiative is supposedly to protect us from foreign terrorist threats. But casting the net so widely—even applying to next-door neighbors calling one another here in the U.S.A.—arouses shock and outrage. The authority was first granted in 2001 under the PATRIOT Act. As Congress debated renewal of the act in 2011, two Democrats, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, foreshadowed the controversy to come. Both members of the Intelligence Committee, which oversees the intelligence com- munity, the senators were privy to the surreptitious ways in which the government was granting itself and expanding authority. And pushing the bounds of the definition of “metadata”—which refers to impersonal data about data—to include more information, and compiling it in such a way that it can reveal personal details that were intended to be protected.
“I want to deliver a warning,” Wyden stated during the 2011 con- gressional debate over renewal of the PATRIOT Act: “when the Amer- ican people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the PATRIOT Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”
Wyden’s words sound much like those of my sources the previous fall.
The average American would be shocked at the extent to which this administration is spying on its own private citizens.
Patel continues his examination of my computers but it seems to stall and languish. Weeks. Months. CBS managers are conspicuously silent on the issue of a possible connection between what’s happened to me and what we’re learning about the government’s overreach through the cases of AP, FOX, and Snowden. As if it hasn’t occurred to them. As if they’re not even a little outraged—or at least curious. In fact, they seem extremely uncomfortable with the fact that I’ve discovered unauthorized trespassers in my computers. I can’t explain it, but I’m now getting a vibe from CBS as if I’m the one who’s done something wrong for learning that my computers were infiltrated.
The strange vibe persists when I seek out an update on Patel’s com- puter forensics work. I find myself suddenly cut out of the loop. The computer firm had been communicating directly with me. But now, they won’t readily respond to phone calls and emails. It’s as if they’ve been instructed to slice me out of the communications channel. As I continue to press to find out what has become of the investigation, I eventually learn secondhand that Patel provided CBS a near-final draft report on May 9, but CBS hasn’t provided me with a copy or even told me that the report has been sent. I can’t explain why, other than intuition, but I get the eerie feeling that CBS wants to downplay what’s happened—maybe even try to advance a narrative that there was no computer intrusion. Why am I not in the loop on the findings of incidents that happened to me in my home?
To be continued…
[hr]Read excerpt #1 here: The Computer Intrusions: Up at Night
#12: Obama’s War on Leaks