The problem is that before these leaks, the Director of National Intelligence was asked point-blank in a congressional hearing whether or not the NSA was conducting surveillance on Americans, and he unequivocally said no. Given that history, I think it's prudent to approach the veracity of further denials with caution.
It's true that Facebook is not the US government, so perhaps we should be less hesitant about the claims they make. However, Facebook does have a history in this area that gives me some pause. Their former CSO was Max Kelly, who is ex-FBI, and would give talks about shit like the need for "uniting" military and commercial "cyber defense." So to the extent that we're dependent on Facebook's internal narrative to determine how they respond to the US government, my sense is that at Facebook, much of that narrative was set by someone who is largely sympathetic to government cooperation.
I think you're correct in pointing out that the NSA is ultimately to blame. However, I think we should acknowledge that while companies like Facebook obviously do not have malicious intent, they are still in the surveillance business. What they are building does have some inherent danger, and will continue to attract the interest of the US government, foreign governments, and attackers.
I wish I saw more people hammering home the point you made in the first paragraph. Too many people are looking for ways around discussing what is just as an important piece of this puzzle as the leak itself: The director of National Intelligence lied to the Senate. To their faces, through his teeth, on camera, in front of the American people.
I'm in the camp that Senator Wyden asked the question in such a way because he knew what the answer was going into the thing.
At this point, you need to start looking at everyone as a suspect. It's an uncomfortable notion, we might not like it, but it's a reality pill ya gotta swallow.
I'm sure it's all shrouded in "classified" and "top secret" tape, but I'm intensely curious to know what President Obama knows that Candidate Obama doesn't.
Maybe it's the same thing all presidents learn their first couple of months in office. Maybe it's a memo that gets placed on the desk in the Oval Office by some shadowy figure. Whatever the case, the honeymoon is over, folks.
I suspect that it was much like the "too big to fail" scandal. President Obama was new to the game and let the people who said they knew what they were doing run the show. On one hand he's got the feel-good speeches he made as a candidate and on the other hand he's got agencies and contractors with billions of dollars of budget on the line all pushing as hard as they can to justify their existence and their budgets. The inertia alone was probably impossible to defeat given how divided his focus was (the economic collapse and the two years of obamacare politics come to mind).
Yes, but you're missing something. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo also offered blanket denials. So the fact that FB has a former CSO with some FBI background has nothing to do with the other companies.
Put another way, DNI lying != FB|Google|Apple|MSFT|Yahoo lying.
If we're talking about the same question, he was asked if the NSA collects data of millions Americans, to which he answered in the negative. This information from Facebook does not contradict that statement.
And to me, that's an important distinction: millions versus < 20,000. I might be persuaded that there existed a few thousand cases in those six months where law enforcement had legitimate reasons to get data from Facebook, for the types of criminal activity mentioned in this post from Facebook.
Does anyone have a link the the congressional hearing that was mentioned? I haven't seen it and would be curious to watch it, in particular the part that was referenced here.
I think that the Director of National Intelligence flat out lied in a congressional hearing is one of the scariest aspects to all of this. Obviously he/the NSA isn't scared to lie to us and to the government while under oath. (At least I presume he was under oath.)
I agree some skepticism is warranted, so I am looking to see what Google and others say. If several big companies all say similar things then we either believe in a much bigger conspiracy or accept their claims there is not bulk access to all accounts.