Will not one tech CEO stand up and tell the truth?
Page was confused (the title of his post is “What the…?). Zuckerberg claimed the press reports were outrageous. Both made strong denials of specific allegations (“direct access,” “back doors”). Both were technically telling the truth. Both were also overtly misleading people.
Those denials now look ridiculous, sitting below a new top headline story with yet more information. I’m guessing Page and Zuckerberg would like to rewrite those statements after reading Claire Cain Miller at the New York Times blowing the lid off with allegations that not only are these companies knowingly working with the NSA, they’re even finding ways to make data transfers more efficient.
In at least two cases, at Google and Facebook, one of the plans discussed was to build separate, secure portals, like a digital version of the secure physical rooms that have long existed for classified information, in some instances on company servers. Through these online rooms, the government would request data, companies would deposit it and the government would retrieve it, people briefed on the discussions said.
But instead of adding a back door to their servers, the companies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key, people briefed on the negotiations said. Facebook, for instance, built such a system for requesting and sharing the information, they said.
In case you missed it, Miller spells it out for you: “While handing over data in response to a legitimate FISA request is a legal requirement, making it easier for the government to get the information is not.”
Or to put it another way, who the hell needs “direct access” or “back doors” when companies are building “secure portals” for them instead?
We could quibble all day about whether these men lied (no), or simply misled (yes). But what I really want to know is this:
What has these people, among the wealthiest on the planet, so scared that they find themselves engaging in these verbal gymnastics to avoid telling a simple truth?
We understand the law – these companies can’t acknowledge FISA orders, let alone discuss them – the Verizon document said as much:
It is further ordered that no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this Order.
But why is that stopping them? Do they really see themselves being dragged away, Bradley Manning style – to sit for years in a prison before even being given the dignity of a trial?
Because that’s not going to happen.
If just one of them stood up and told us what’s really going on, as the EFF has urged, we could start to have a real discussion in this country about freedom v. security.
Stand up, I say, and tell us about these FISA orders. Publish them all. Tell us everything. Let us understand the true scope of the evil we are facing.
Because their lawyers might be telling them what they are required to do. But their soul should be telling them what they must do.
At the end of the day, when it comes to government snooping on the phone records and Internet activity of millions of Americans, it doesn’t matter in the least if it’s legal or if procedures were followed. What matters is that the privacy of millions of people has been violated without probable cause or suspicion of wrongdoing, simply so the government could scoop up data on the off chance of finding something interesting.
Will you do it, Marissa? Or you, Ballmer? Or you, Armstrong? Will anyone stand up and say the truth? Will anyone stand up to the secret organization with the secret courts and, simply, do what’s right? Despite the consequences? Despite what your lawyers tell you?
Perhaps you could all get on a conference call tonight and double dare each other to do it all together, at the same time.
“The NSA makes us do things that crush our Constitution, and then they make us never talk about it.”
I hope one of them does. History will not be kind to the people who say nothing. And it will be even less kind to those that mislead us.