Want to see how NSA disclosures are harming national security? Case in point is this morning’s Wall Street Journal story, which contains yet another new disclosure on the NSA’s terrorist surveillance activities. The story, entitled, “Foreign Stakes Shield Firms from NSA Sweep,” reports:
The National Security Agency’s controversial data program, which seeks to stockpile records on all calls made in the U.S., doesn’t collect information directly from T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, in part because of their foreign ownership ties, people familiar with the matter said….
T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless don’t participate in their own collection programs because of legal complications stemming, in part, from their foreign ownership. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom AG owns 74% of T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless is a joint-venture of Verizon Communications Inc. with the U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC, which owns a 45% stake.
Japan’s SoftBank Corp. is pushing to complete an acquisition of Sprint by July. In order for the company to engage in other classified activities with the U.S., it is expected to create a separate U.S. subsidiary. It would also create a new board-level position of security director, set to be filled by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The exclusion of T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless from the sprawling domestic surveillance program underscores the deep ties the U.S. telecom industry maintains with the U.S. intelligence world.
Note to self, the terrorists are saying this morning, use Verizon and T-Mobile.
The story explains that Verizon Business Network Services, the subject of the recently disclosed FISA court order, does participate because it is a US subsidiary of the foreign-owned Verizon Communications. And the story also notes that not all Verizon and T-Mobile calls can avert US surveillance because they often share networks with US-owned carriers, who do cooperate with the NSA. As the Journal puts it:
The blind spot for U.S. intelligence is relatively small, according to a U.S. official. Officials believe they can still capture information, or metadata, on 99% of U.S. phone traffic because nearly all calls eventually travel over networks owned by U.S. companies that work with the NSA.
But the point is the terrorists should not know any of this. They now know more about how US surveillance works, the fact that foreign-owned carriers are not subject to NSA surveillance, and the fact that the NSA circumvents these restrictions by capturing phone calls of foreign carriers that are routed through foreign networks. All this information is classified for a reason.
As information about NSA activities is leaked, it is resulting in the disclosure of still more information as US officials try to explain the classified program to the American people.
This entire discussion is being followed and studied by terrorists in Yemen, Pakistan, and East Africa — allowing them to go to school on our activities and better avoid detection.