The NSA and the Infrastructure of the Surveillance State
By Eric Draitser
June 12, 2013
It has long been known that cyberspace is one of the main battlegrounds in the 21st century. However, last week’s shocking revelations about the NSA’s surveillance and data-gathering activities illustrate the extent to which US intelligence seeks “full-spectrum dominance” in cyberspace.
Although there have been myriad articles in recent days about the various aspects of the NSA surveillance story, none seem to focus on the fact that US intelligence effectively has access to all data transmitted, not just that on Verizon or Google servers. Essentially, the intelligence community – a convenient euphemism for that complex that includes private contractors and government agencies – acts much like a filter, sifting and straining all information through its various systems. However, it is important to realize that the system that the government has established is an all-encompassing one, including access to data in company servers in addition to access to the cable and fiber-optic infrastructure that actually transmits the data.
On the one hand, there is the PRISM system which, as the Washington Post reported, allows “The National Security Agency and the FBI [to tap] directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs.” Aside from being a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and countless other international standards, the program has been vigorously defended by Obama Administration officials who, like their predecessors in the Bush Administration, invoke the always convenient “National Security” trump card to justify their illegal actions.
The PRISM system should be understood as a collusion between the NSA and major internet companies against the interests of ordinary Americans. Because the PRISM system is justified as being used solely to “target and track foreign targets,” somehow American citizens are supposed to feel at ease. It is important to note that PRISM makes use of obviously illegal tactics which “circumvent formal legal processes…to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos.” This is the crux of the PRISM aspect of this scandal: it is blatantly illegal.