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Prism Project: Everyone is in bed with the CIA / NSA!

by Agent Smith (Alessandro Ebersol)

The article I wrote about not breeding crows, which came out in the March 2021 issue of PCLinuxOS Magazine, had very good feedback among readers. I had several positive messages, where folks said they enjoyed reading it. One reader, however, asked me for more, and he asked me for sources as well, as well as for evidence.

Unfortunately, these subjects have no tangible evidence, at least not at the present time. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, with the freedom to access information laws, all the shenanigans will come to light, but I personally doubt it, since there are things that have been hidden for more than 50 years.

What we can do is present facts, and then connect the dots. And at the end of the article, I will show how connecting the dots works. But for those who want more of the dirty deeds of our Big Tech companies, here is Prism Project, which the hero Edward Snowden revealed, and I bring some details.

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the U.S. government's largest spying scheme

Edward Snowden, one of the most famous whistleblowers of our time, has brought to light the many surveillance programs and other spying activities of the United States government. This former intelligence officer revealed top secret documents to Glenn Greenwald (then working for The Guardian) and Laura Poitras, a freelance journalist, in May 2013 at a hotel in Hong Kong.

Hero or traitor?

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations.

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant (at the time) at the CIA, and at the time, an employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) for four years as an employee of several outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most important whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Chelsea Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the most secretive organizations in existence - the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon, and irresistible executive powers that govern the world I love are revealed, even if for a moment."

Snowden has traveled to many places, as after his revelations he became a highly sought-after individual by the US authorities. He fled to China, where he revealed the aforementioned secrets, and then went to Russia. There were attempts to have him asylum in Brazil, but he preferred Russia, where the influence of the American government would not reach him.

Edward Snowden, today

Now 37, Snowden lives in Moscow, Russia. His girlfriend from his NSA days, Lindsay Mills, also an American, joined him in Moscow in 2014 and the two were married in 2017. She announced in late October, 2020, that they were expecting a baby boy, who would have Russian citizenship.

In October 2020 Snowden gained Russian citizenship and permission to live in Russia indefinitely. Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Matt Gaetz, as well as recently pardoned Roger Stone, all urged President Trump to grant Snowden clemency. In an Oval Office interview with The Post in August 2020, Trump said he was open to allowing the whistleblower to return from Russia without going to prison.

In December 2020, the couple's first child, a baby boy, was born and announced on Twitter.

Snowden and his family, December, 2020

The Prism Project Revelations

Snowden's greatest revelation was about a program called PRISM, under which the National Security Agency (NSA) accesses emails, documents, photographs, and other sensitive user data stored at big companies.

Microsoft became the first PRISM partner in 2007 and the NSA began collecting large amounts of data from its servers. Other companies joined the program in due course. In 2008, Congress gave the Justice Department the authority to compel a reluctant company to "comply" with PRISM requirements. This means that even companies that were unwilling to join the program voluntarily had to do so at the behest of a court order.

PRISM began in 2007 in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act under the Bush administration. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC), pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The documents indicate that PRISM is "the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytical reporting, and accounts for 91% of NSA Internet traffic acquired under FISA section 702 authority." The leaked information came after the revelation that the FISA court had ordered a subsidiary of telecommunications company Verizon Communications to turn over to NSA records the tracking of all of its customers' phone calls.

But how does this gigantic tapping of the world's communications work?

  • We can identify, from Snowden's statements, several methods: Snowden told The Guardian, in his video interview, that the NSA could access anyone's email, and even reach far back in time when necessary, strongly suggesting that the agency is copying large amounts of data.

  • A slide from the presentation Snowden gave to The Guardian, says that the NSA gets data "directly from the servers of these US Service Providers," suggesting that an agent can somehow get into the computers of Google, Yahoo, etc., and use a self-service tool to get data from users.

  • The tech companies mentioned in the Prism story deny that the NSA has direct access to their networks, and are now lobbying for greater public disclosure of the data they are asked to provide by the security agencies.

  • The New York Times described a "locked mailbox" process in which the NSA installs its own servers in a company's server farm. Upon request, the target companies move data from their servers to the "lockbox," giving the NSA quick access.

Now, which of the four situations above is true? Well, let Ashkan Soltani explain.

Ashkan Soltani is an independent privacy consultant and consumer advocate and former Federal Trade Commission investigator. He says it is possible that all of these statements are correct. Depending on what data the NSA needs, it employs some or all of these methods to obtain it.

"It probably varies from company to company, based on what the company is willing to do," he said. "But the way I think it works is agents issue a directive to the company, and someone at the company, or a contractor on site, or a (computer program) collects those records and loads them into a box that the NSA can access."

No technologist who was interviewed by NBC (the original article for this excerpt) for this story believes that the NSA simply hoovers up every bit of data from every technology company. Despite advances in storage and transmission speeds, that would still be technically challenging and probably unnecessary. Why recreate Google when the agency can simply ask Google for the data it wants?

Early versions of the Prism story claimed that the tech giants involved voluntarily participated in the program and had no knowledge of the queries made by the agents. But most companies said they had never heard of Prism, and that they do not allow unfiltered access to data. Both may be true, Soltani said.

However, the situation may have evolved differently. According to Bruce Schneer:

"NSA surveillance relies heavily on corporate capabilities - through cooperation, bribery, threats and compulsion. Fundamentally, surveillance is the business model of the Internet. The NSA didn't wake up one day and said: let's just spy on everyone. They looked up and said, 'Wow, corporations are spying on everybody. Let's take our piece of the pie.

As we know Big Tech's either started out aided by government capital, from these 3-letter agencies or, being older, have other arrangements. But, personal data is the currency of exchange.

Microsoft bought a company that went bankrupt? Threw money out the window? That's ok, the CIA or the NSA can help its cash flow. Just leave the backdoors always open for them, and everything is fine.

Speaking of Microsoft, according to the book "Der NSA Komplex," published by Der Spiegel in March 2014, PRISM also gained access to Microsoft's cloud service SkyDrive (now called OneDrive) starting in March 2013. This was accomplished after months of cooperation between the FBI and Microsoft.

The Washington Post reported that in the speaker's notes accompanying the presentation, it says that "98% of PRISM's output is based on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft; we need to make sure we don't undermine those sources." The Post also says that "PalTalk, though much smaller, has hosted traffic of substantial intelligence interest during the Arab Spring and in the current Syrian civil war."

The program's cost of $20 million per year was initially interpreted as being the cost of the program itself, but later The Guardian revealed that the NSA pays for expenses incurred by cooperating corporations, so it seems more likely that the $20 million is the total amount paid by the NSA to the companies involved in the PRISM program.

Connecting the dots...

As I said at the beginning of the article, we wouldn't have hard evidence for everything that has been leaked, apart from all the evidence that Edward Snowden leaked to The Guardian in 2013. But, let's do some deduction exercises, they can help us get a broader view of the whole picture.

And, let's travel far into the past.

Drug Trafficking

Does anyone remember drug trafficking in the 60's and 70's?

Those who have a good memory, remember that at that time, drug trafficking was not a problem, as it became in the 80's.

In the 60's and 70's, the fashionable drug was heroin, grown in Afghanistan, and coming from the Middle East. It was a very expensive drug, and its consumption was restricted.

But, our good friends at the CIA, who needed funds to sponsor counterrevolutionaries in Central America, found a great way to make money: Drugs (cocaine), coming from Colombia, and trafficked into the USA, with the CIA as facilitator. Since cocaine was cheaper than drugs from the middle east, they flooded the streets of the USA, and were the root of the Iran/Contras scandal.

All this can be seen in the movie American Made, with Tom Cruise.

Ironically, these days, with the whole Taliban issue, it seems that the CIA has quite a bit of control of the opium and heroin plantations in Afghanistan.

Support, training and sponsorship of dictators and terrorist agents

Who remembers that Saddam Hussein has been a CIA asset since the 1950's?

After a failed attempt on the life of General Qassim, Saddam Hussein fled to Egypt in 1959. While in Cairo, Hussein repeatedly visited the U.S. embassy to meet with CIA agents who approached him to work together to overthrow the Qassim government in Iraq. Upon his return to Iraq, Hussein was installed by the CIA in an apartment in Baghdad located directly across the street from Qassim's office in the Ministry of Defense. From his apartment on al-Rashid Street, Hussein was able to observe the General's movements and report to the CIA. In 1963, with the help of the CIA, the Ba'athist movement assassinated President Qassim. The US is among the first nations to recognize the new government and immediately starts sending weapons to the new Ba'ath regime. Remarkably, on the eve of the Ba'athist coup, the CIA provided the insurgents with a list of 800 Iraqi communists. All of them were rounded up and murdered by the Ba'athists.

And that Osama Bin Laden was also trained and funded by the CIA?

Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said:

"Bin Laden was, however, the product of a monumental miscalculation by Western security agencies. During the 1980s, he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan."

Several other authors, journalists and statesmen have stated that bin Laden was funded, armed and trained by the CIA to fight the Russians.

The CIA trained the mujahideen in many of the tactics that Al Qaeda is known for today, such as car bombs, assassinations, and other acts that would be considered terrorism today.

Insurrections and coups d'état

The Arab Spring: Made in USA

In Ahmed Bensaada's book Arabesque$: Investigation into the US Role in the Arab Uprisings, he reports that the uprisings that swept the East in the 2010s had at least four unique characteristics in common:

  • None was spontaneous - all required careful and lengthy planning (+5 years), by the State Department, the CIA through foundations, George Soros and the pro-Israel lobby.

  • All have focused exclusively on removing reviled despots without replacing the autocratic power structure that kept them in power.

  • No Arab Spring protest made any reference to the powerful anti-American sentiment over Palestine and Iraq.

  • All the instigators of the Arab Spring uprisings were middle-class, well-educated young people who mysteriously disappeared after 2011.

  • And, it is important to note that social media played a major role in making the Arab Spring uprisings happen.

The Color Revolts

The color revolutions were CIA-instigated revolutions that replaced democratically elected pro-Russian governments with equally autocratic governments more friendly to US corporate interests:

  • Serbia (2000) - Bulldozer Revolution

  • Georgia (2002) - Pink Revolution

  • Ukraine (2004) - Orange Revolution

  • Kyrgyzstan (2005) - Tulip Revolution

Flowchart of the color revolts

The Fall of President Roussef

On December 17, 2013, Snowden wrote an open letter to the Brazilian people offering to help the Brazilian government investigate allegations of US spying. Brazil had been in an uproar since Snowden revealed that the US was spying on President Dilma Rousseff and employees of Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras.

Two years later there was the opening of impeachment proceedings of the president, with information leaked to the media, of corruption in the state oil company. The involvement of the president was never proven in the corruption cases, but the media campaign has worn down the government so much that the impeachment was inevitable.

The picture is very clear, those who don't want to see it can't see it

Now, let's do the deduction exercise I mentioned before. All these events listed above, follow a pattern: They are movements, people, governments, organizations, which are generated, trained, sponsored, in short, created by North American three-letter agencies. And, not rarely, these creations, these agencies, in the best Frankenstein effect, come back to attack the USA and its people. The USA (and the world, consequently) are victims of their (CIA/NSA) own creations. Or, as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) said in Iron Man 3: “We create our own demons”.

The 3-letter organizations were present in the creation of Big Tech's. Today, Big Tech's have grown so large that they interfere with the communications, culture, information, and freedoms of both the American people and the rest of the world.

The poor victims of the cruel and oppressive government

If you ask these corporations, they will tell you that governments are the big villains and that they should not have access to our data. But what about the corporations themselves? Why should they have access to our private data? At the very least, with a democratic government that you elected (let's be naive for a moment here) you at least have the facade of representation. You have some power here, however minuscule or inconsequential it may seem these days, to determine that government. You have a vote. Can you say the same thing about your favorite transnational internet company? You don't have a vote there.

As mentioned before, such companies have grown to the point of permanently banning a person from social networks and media on the Internet. Gag orders, issued by corporations, not by a judge, not by a public authority, but by corporations. This is totally wrong, when corporations take upon themselves a power that belongs to the state.

Follow me, and in a future opportunity, I will write more about our favorite technology companies.

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