November 4, 2013
Google’s Eric Schmidt Blasts NSA Over MUSCULAR Spy Program
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Last week it was revealed that Google and Yahoo! Data centers were being infiltrated by the NSA and data transmitted between the companies and their worldwide users were being intercepted without anyone's knowledge. The evidence, first reported by the Washington Post, was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Soon after the news broke, engineers close to Google reportedly launched a verbal offensive at the NSA.
Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has now also gone on the verbal offensive, calling the government’s actions “outrageous” and its policy “terrible.”
Schmidt talked to reporters from CNN and The Wall Street Journal this weekend while in Hong Kong, saying after hearing about the new program, codenamed MUSCULAR, he and his company filed formal complaints with congress, the NSA and President Obama. According to Schmidt, the NSA simply referred to a previous statement when they received the complaint from Google.
"I was shocked that the NSA would do this -- perhaps a violation of law but certainly a violation of mission," said Schmidt in his interview with CNN, calling MUSCULAR an “overstep.”
In his Wall Street Journal interview with Deborah Kan, he expressed similar outrage, though he spoke with uncertainty about the accuracy of the latest leak from Mr. Snowden.
"It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true. The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people's privacy, it's not OK," said Schmidt.
"The Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it's perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come."
Leaks from Snowden regarding the NSA’s surveillance programs have continued to roll in since earlier this summer, first with the revelations of a program known as PRISM which gives the government easy access to user data stored in the centers of some of America’s largest tech firms. In the days and weeks that followed, companies like Apple, Facebook and Microsoft were quick to promise users that the government does not have “direct access” to their data centers. In the case of Microsoft, however, it’s been revealed the government worked directly with the company to work around its encryption systems to get access to whatever data they’re after.
Other leaks have shown that the NSA has collected phone records and all manner of digital conversations. Last week’s leaks revealed the NSA may not even ask for permission when collecting information from Google and Yahoo!, standing directly between the companies and the end users to copy every bit of data sent between the two.
NSA officials continue to defend their actions as necessary for national security and capturing terrorists before they have the opportunity to harm Americans. That Americans’ data is also captured in this mission seems to be of little concern to the NSA.
"There clearly are cases where evil people exist, but you don't have to violate the privacy of every single citizen of America to find them," said Schmidt, a man highly concerned with eliminating censorship and limiting the government’s role in the Internet.
"The fact of the matter is that citizens have a right to privacy in democracies," he said.