Last week, the EFF published a list of 65 things we learned from the Edward Snowden leaks. It’s grim reading, but here are some of the highlights:
5. Although the NSA has repeatedly stated it does not target Americans, its own documents show that searches of data collected under Section 702 are designed simply to determine with 51 percent confidence a target’s “foreignness.’”
6. If the NSA does not determine a target’s foreignness, it will not stop spying on that target. Instead the NSA will presume that target to be foreign unless they “can be positively identified as a United States person.”
7. A leaked internal NSA audit detailed 2,776 violations of rules or court orders in just a one-year period.
10. The government has destroyed evidence in EFF’s cases against NSA spying. This is incredibly ironic, considering that the government has also claimed EFF’s clients need this evidence to prove standing.
11. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when asked directly by Sen. Ron Wyden whether the NSA was gathering any sort of data on millions of Americans.
18. The NSA used supposedly anonymous Google cookies as beacons for surveillance, helping them to track individual users.
27. NSA undermines the encryption tools relied upon by ordinary users, companies, financial institutions, targets, and non-targets as part of BULLRUN, an unparalleled effort to weaken the security of all Internet users, including you.
31. When the DEA acts on information its Special Operations Division receives from the NSA, it cloaks the source of the information through “parallel construction,” going through the charade of recreating an imaginary investigation to hide the source of the tip, not only from the defendant, but from the court. This was intended to ensure that no court rules on the legality or scope of how NSA data is used in ordinary investigations.
33. Even the President’s handpicked Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended that the government end Section 215 mass telephone records collection, because that collection is ineffective, illegal, and likely unconstitutional.
34. The NSA has plans to infect potentially millions of computers with malware implants as part of its Tailored Access Operations.
35. The NSA had a secret $10 million contract with security firm RSA to create a “back door” in the company’s widely used encryption products.
36. The NSA tracked access to porn and gathered other sexually explicit information “as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches.”
Because all of these leaks have been spaced out over time, it’s easy to lose sight of just how much wrongdoing has been exposed. I believe that, not matter what you think about Edward Snowden, no matter whether you see him as hero, traitor, or whatever, his status as “whistleblower” is beyond doubt. The story here isn’t Edward Snowden; it’s the NSA and its enablers. Let’s keep the focus where it needs to be, folks.