Well, if you missed your daily dose of outrage this morning, Glen Greenwald—the Guardian journalist who first reported on the Snowden files and broke the news of NSA spying—has now revealed that the NSA is actually altering servers and routers that are being shipped overseas.
An excerpt from Greenwald’s book, which is available for purchase starting today, reveals details of an NSA program that systematically intercepts American-made servers, routers, and other computer network devices, and embeds them with surveillance tools. The agency then repackages them—complete with factory seal and all—and sends them on their way to their international recipients, thereby gaining access to entire networks and their users.
Which is exactly what the U.S. government has accused China of doing for years—to the extent that it has advised U.S. companies not to buy equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, the top two telecommunications equipment manufacturers in China. A 2012 report from the House Intelligence Community claimed that Chinese manufacturers “may be violating United States law” and have "not followed United States legal obligations or international standards of business behavior.”
The news comes on the tail of several international spying scandals. Last month, the world learned about ZunZuneo, a Cuban Twitter-like social network that was created and funded by USAID. Details later emerged revealing similar efforts in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
These programs have very real global impacts.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring popular bloggers (those that get more than 3,000 hits a day) to register with the government. Activists and lawyers have noted that the new law is little more than an effort to eliminate Web anonymity and track dissenting voices. The new law comes as part of the Russian government’s efforts to exert greater control over the Internet, citing U.S. spying concerns.
Just weeks before signing the new blogging law into effect, President Putin told a group of journalists that the Internet is a “special CIA project.” All of Google’s traffic "goes through servers that are in the States,” he said, adding: "everything is monitored there.”
That awkward moment when your covert Internet surveillance attempts give a restrictive authoritarian government an excuse to crack down even harder on its own people…
Responding to details of its server/router interception activities, the NSA claims that it did so only with specific international players, not across the board:
"The implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false. NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements. We are not going to comment on specific, alleged foreign intelligence activities. Public release of purportedly classified material about U.S. intelligence collection systems, without context, further confuses an important issue for the country and jeopardizes human life as well as national security sources and methods."