At least they were doing it legally…
Yesterday, data implicating the CIA in a number of device and account monitoring operations surfaced, adding yet another notch to the already crowded toolbelt of widespread American surveillance. Paired with AT&T, the telecom giant voluntarily shared terabytes of call data, text messages, and GPS location info with the Central Intelligence Agency, all under the court-approved pretense of “national security”.
Reports suggest the CIA has been spending upwards of 10 million dollars per year of the taxpayers money to spy on those very same taxpayers, and if the hypocrisy of it all isn’t enough to get your blood boiling — the hard facts of the matter just might.
Not only did AT&T offer to have their customers privacy poked and prodded by random government agents, the declassified data accuses AT&T of voluntarily offering this information up to authorities purely as a profit motive, who considered the extra couple million a year a welcome addition to their already platinum-lined pockets.
“The C.I.A. protects the nation and upholds privacy rights of Americans by ensuring that its intelligence collection activities are focused on acquiring foreign intelligence and counterintelligence in accordance with U.S. laws,” he said. “The C.I.A. is expressly forbidden from undertaking intelligence collection activities inside the United States ‘for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of U.S. persons,’ and the C.I.A. does not do so.”
By exploiting one of the many loopholes in the current quotation of the law, the CIA was able to pass the surveillance buck to AT&T, claiming that the culpability would ultimately land in the hands of the worldwide telecom.
What differentiates this surveillance from what we’ve become accustomed to in the past couple months (as frightening as that thought might be), and the CIA was eager to make that distinction clear when questioned by the New York Times. The NSA generally waits hours for various servers and backbone taps to pull in random piles of data, sift through them, analyze the transcripts, and form a metadata picture that can finally be worked over by human eyes.
By comparison, the CIA moves in a much more time-sensitive manner, pulling info on specific accounts that are already known to belong to persons of interest through classical data-gathering methodology, and using various tools at their disposal to gain access to the line itself, the voicemail box, and in rare occasions even the realtime GPS information if a chase was on in the moment.
In perspective one could easily argue that the NSA, what with their backdoors and encryption cracking and brute force methods of mass data surveillance of millions of people at once, holds far more of the blame than the CIA in this particular instance. From what we can tell, although the information just surfaced it does suggest that everything they did was legal, above board, and at least to some degree guided by the framework of the Constitution.
Luckily, you can skirt the dragnets of both AT&T and the CIA as long as you connect to the internet through a strongly encrypted VPN. And although it’s extremely rare a request for records ever gets put in, you should always use Bitcoin just in case the feds decide to knock one day and ask for the name on the credit card holding up the monthly subscription.
With Private Internet Access, you never have to worry about your name, address, or sensitive personal info being saved on a server anywhere on US or European soil. They take the security of their users identity seriously, and see it as an utmost priority to keep your details safe when well-funded governments are on the prowl.