Silicon Valley Is Key to Limiting NSA Surveillance


A little more than a year ago, journalist Glenn Greenwald and his then-colleagues at the Guardian, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, set off for Hong Kong to meet a mysterious source who promised unprecedented information about the United States’ intelligence activities. Little did they know that Edward Snowden, a young ex-contractor for the National Security Agency, was about to turn over a trove of documents on the sweeping surveillance operations conducted by the US and British intelligence agencies. Snowden’s leaks pulled back the veil on the vast eavesdropping apparatus set up after the September 11 attacks and the collusion among Silicon Valley’s giants, telecoms, and the intelligence community to conduct bulk surveillance on US citizens.

While many Silicon Valley firms willingly gave the NSA access to their data and servers through a program called “Prism,” the intelligence service was not content with having just front-door access to these companies. Through an initiative known as “Google Cloud Exploitation,” the NSA also gained access to Google’s encrypted server traffic.

I spoke with Greenwald in advance of his trip to the United States for a month-long cross-country tour to promote his new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State. Greenwald, whose book tour represented his first return to the United States since the Guardian began publishing the Snowden leaks in June last year, spoke over the phone from his house in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Greenwald will be speaking on June 18 at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco.

A year on from the revelations by Snowden, Greenwald said the impact of the NSA leaks and subsequent media coverage of state surveillance was substantial and multifaceted — beyond the “extremely mild legislation” that has been proposed in Congress to rein in the NSA’s power. “Sometimes..

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