Thousands Of Firms Trade Confidential Data With The US Government In Exchange For Classified Intelligence

Tyler Durden's picture

The rabbit hole just got deeper. A whole lot deeper.

On Sunday we predicated that "there's one reason why the administration, James Clapper and the NSA should just keep their mouths shut as the PRISM-gate fallout escalates: with every incremental attempt to refute some previously unknown facet of the US Big Brother state, a new piece of previously unleaked information from the same intelligence organization now scrambling for damage control, emerges and exposes the brand new narrative as yet another lie, forcing even more lies, more retribution against sources, more journalist persecution and so on."

And like a hole that just gets deeper the more you dug and exposes ever more dirt, tonight's installment revealing one more facet of the conversion of a once great republic into a great fascist, "big brother" state, comes from Bloomberg which reports that "thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said."

The companies extend far wider than the legacy telcos, such as Verizon, that launched the entire NSA-spying scandal a week ago: "Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries."

Many of these same Internet and telecommunications companies voluntarily provide U.S. intelligence organizations with additional data, such as equipment specifications, that don’t involve private communications of their customers, the four people said.

And since what goes on behind the scenes is confidential, literally anything goes: "Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords."

Some of the back and forth is innocuous, such as Microsoft revealing ahead of time the nature of its exposed bugs (ostensibly providing the government with a back door into any system using a Microsoft OS, but since it's don't ask, dont' tell, nobody really knows). However the bulk of the interaction is steeped in secrecy: "Most of the arrangements are so sensitive that only a handful of people in a company know of them, and they are sometimes brokered directly between chief executive officers and the heads of the U.S.’s major spy agencies, the people familiar with those programs said."

More on this "company within a company":

Typically, a key executive at a company and a small number of technical people cooperate with different agencies and sometimes multiple units within an agency, according to the four people who described the arrangements.


If necessary, a company executive, known as a “committing officer,” is given documents that guarantee immunity from civil actions resulting from the transfer of data. The companies are provided with regular updates, which may include the broad parameters of how that information is used.

Remember how they say conspiracies are impossible because too many people know about them, and the information always eventually leaks? Well not if you contain it to a handful of people in any organization, and force them to sign a bloody NDA, pledging one's first born in the case of secrecy breach.

An example of a company that is happy to "communicate" with tht the government is Intel's McAfee internet security unit, which in addition to everything is one giant backdoor entrance for the government. If need be of course:

Intel Corp. (INTC)’s McAfee unit, which makes Internet security software, regularly cooperates with the NSA, FBI and the CIA, for example, and is a valuable partner because of its broad view of malicious Internet traffic, including espionage operations by foreign powers, according to one of the four people, who is familiar with the arrangement.


Such a relationship would start with an approach to McAfee’s chief executive, who would then clear specific individuals to work with investigators or provide the requested data, the person said. The public would be surprised at how much help the government seeks, the person said.


McAfee firewalls collect information on hackers who use legitimate servers to do their work, and the company data can be used to pinpoint where attacks begin. The company also has knowledge of the architecture of information networks worldwide, which may be useful to spy agencies who tap into them, the person said.

Google, another participant in PRISM, already lied about its participation in the covert-op:

Following an attack on his company by Chinese hackers in 2010, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was provided with highly sensitive government intelligence linking the attack to a specific unit of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military, according to one of the people, who is familiar with the government’s investigation. Brin was given a temporary classified clearance to sit in on the briefing, the person said.


According to information provided by Snowden, Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, had at that point been a Prism participant for more than a year.


Google CEO Larry Page said in a blog posting June 7 that he hadn’t heard of a program called Prism until after Snowden’s disclosures and that the Mountain View, California-based company didn’t allow the U.S. government direct access to its servers or some back-door to its data centers. He said Google provides user data to governments “only in accordance with the law.”

Ah yes, the law that no mere mortal can observe in action, and which has zero popular checks and balances. So what specifically does Google provide to the government? "Highly offensive information" it appears.

That metadata includes which version of the operating system, browser and Java software are being used on millions of devices around the world, information that U.S. spy agencies could use to infiltrate those computers or phones and spy on their users.


“It’s highly offensive information,” said Glenn Chisholm, the former chief information officer for Telstra Corp (TLS)., one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, contrasting it to defensive information used to protect computers rather than infiltrate them.

Going back to Obama's promise on live TV that nobody was listening in to any conversations, one wonders: why did the major telecom companies "ask for guarantees that they wouldn’t be held liable under U.S. wiretap laws." Because if the companies demanded a waiver, they obviously were wiretapping, i.e., eavesdropping, and doing so on US citizens, or those protected by US laws. And that's why Obama should have just kept his mouth shut, instead of having to explain what he meant and that he never said what he said.

Before they agreed to install the system on their networks, some of the five major Internet companies -- AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ)., Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Level 3 Communications Inc (LVLT). and CenturyLink Inc (CTL). -- asked for guarantees that they wouldn’t be held liable under U.S. wiretap laws. Those companies that asked received a letter signed by the U.S. attorney general indicating such exposure didn’t meet the legal definition of a wiretap and granting them immunity from civil lawsuits, the person said.

Ah, the US Attorney General - because what is another Obama scandal that doesn't involve his primary henchman Eric Holder...

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Dallas-based AT&T, the nation’s biggest
phone carrier, declined to comment. Edward McFadden, a spokesman for
New York-based Verizon, the second-largest phone company, declined to
comment. Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kansas-based
Sprint, and Monica Martinez, a spokeswoman for Broomfield,
Colorado-based Level 3, didn’t immediately respond to requests for

No need to comment - it's quite clear.

The last question remains: what do companies get out of this proactive betrayal of their clients? Well, in some cases, such as those of IBM and Amazon as we described yesterday, they get lucrative government (CIA) contracts for billions of dollars. But that's just taxpayer cash. Where it gets worse is when the kickbacks are yet more secrets.

In exchange, leaders of companies are showered with attention and information by the agencies to help maintain the relationship, the person said. In other cases, companies are given quick warnings about threats that could affect their bottom line, including serious Internet attacks and who is behind them.

In other words, what is going on behind the scenes is nothing more than one vast, very selective, extremely secretive, symbiotic and perfectly "legal" giant information exchange network, which allows corporations to profit off classified government information either in kind or in cash, and which allows the government to have all the information at its disposal, collected using public and private venues, in order to protect itself, to take out those it designates as targets, or simply said - to get ever bigger.

The loser in all of this?


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THX 1178's picture

The deeper you go, the deeper it gets. The more you pull the plug out of the back of your head, the more there is to pull out. Like streamers out of a clown's mouth.

prains's picture

IT puts the fucking lotion on its skin !!!!!



TheLooza's picture

Shit is incementally getting too real.  I just want to get raped by the HFT algo fuckers and pretend that thats as bad as it gets.

macholatte's picture



But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.


We're willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start. All that we're asking in return is your cooperation in bringing a known terrorist to justice.


I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?


James_Cole's picture

This seems interesting but I can't quite put it into context yet. By context I mean, has congress pinpointed whether the people who leaked this info graduated high school? Pretty critical.

I need high school graduation confirmation before I can decide whether this is valid or not. Hopefully congress will investigate quickly.

philipat's picture

Oh what a tangled web we weave.......

johnQpublic's picture

i swear, you would shit yourself, if you understood the level of cooperation with law enforcement, including the F.B.I., that your local GROCERY store loss prevention team has

those store loyalty cards...hoo boy what they can infer from those ...metadata anyone?

not a joke folks

had a buddy in grocery store loss prevention, and the tales he could tell

he had to actually get security clearance

partial list of shit to not buy at the grocery store with credit card and or store loyalty card

bulk poppy seeds, baggies(buy ten boxes and see),starting fluid, certain cleaning products, cold medecine, lithium batteries etc

the poppy seed one is the best imho

they actually provided instructions on how it was turned into heroin

had a rash of thefts of the three pound bags from the artisan foods section or somesuch

jbvtme's picture    check out a few of your favorite civil servants now lobbying for private interests

DaddyO's picture

This article makes Mr. Snowden out to be a little more than a "high school" dropout. It seems he's pretty crafty which would be of great use to TPTB in an NSA sort of way.


Lost Word's picture


I would Tweet some of these ZH News stories,

Except the Tweet reveals my ZH account name.

Any way to block ?

Lost My Shorts's picture

You are totally right.  I was going to say something similar.  Imagine if the local police offered manpower to review all the surveillance video at the local Rite Aid and bust all the shop lifters.  What woudl Rite Aid say?  Thanks !!!  Have all our "customer data" and fire away.

Because computers seem mysterious and obscure to the average person, people have the illusion that what they do there is somehow secret.  Moreso than walking around the local drug store where your every move is recorded by surveillance cameras and the store would be eager to hand all the video to police if the police were even willing to look at it.  Why should the 'net be any different? The big tech companies are happy to have free help policing their customers and fending off threats to their business, just like the local drug store would be.

dunce's picture

When first we practice to deceive.

Say What Again's picture





Freewheelin Franklin's picture

Version: GnuPG v2.0.17 (MingW32)


Totentänzerlied's picture

Some of the cipher and digest algorithms are compromised. It only matters if someone is actually interested in trying to decrypt your messages...

BlackChicken's picture

Perfect place for that quote. Thank you.

My biggest hurdle for years has been knowing those still part of the larger system are actually my enemy. Mixed with that, I have this burning need to show them what they are part of, but still trying to do such with genuine love and compassion. That last part is where the struggle for me comes from. I find it hard to love sometimes with a boot on my face.

On July the fourth, I will shiver every time I hear about celebrating our freedom and independence; mostly because those I know don't actually know much of history, or what freedom really is.

The thing that really helps me keep trying anyway is the fact that if they knew the truth, and could really see it, they too might start talking. If our nation really has a 100th monkey moment, and we could possibly flush the toilet, we will be on our way to a super leap forward.

That my friends is worth all the jeers/mocking/name-calling the system could ever dish out.

BlackChicken's picture

W need an election where real people run for office, not the sold-out clowns we see right now.

Until the awakening, or hundredth monkey moment, voting will be irrelevant. Just sayin'

Spanky's picture

And I understand your point of view. Can I change it, perhaps?

What do they, the elite, have? Money. Politicians. Policy.

What do we have? Numbers. If we can wake them.

An awakening needs a catalyst, an object, and hope. (Get yer hopium right here, folks -- no limit today.) We can supply the object (and a realistic and effective object will build hope). At that point, we merely need a catalyst -- and I think the-powers-that-be will supply one.

I too would like to see "real people run[ning] for office, not the sold-out clowns..." But before we get to that point, we'll have to deal the empire a decisive blow. Something we can all agree upon and get behind. An out-of-control, corrupt and intrusive government? Met by our principled stand at the ballot box... Call it a hundredth monkey moment.

It's time to get back to the fundamentals. Constitutional fundamentals.

Esso's picture

Thursday is Soylent Hopium Day.

Yes_Questions's picture



The Elite have the deed to the planet.

Its not theirs, or ours, for that matter, to have.


All the wealth and power superficially at the disposal of the Elite is an illusion in the big picture that WE allow to manifest into wholly unecessary misery.  

Its our slavery to lose.




Kobe Beef's picture

Indeed, it is our passivity in the face of aggression that allows this to happen. Whether Learned Helplessness, or Hollywood conditioning us to believe that if we stay in our chairs, Neo, Jason Bourne or Batman will swoop in and save us: the effect is the same. Passivity.

The State is not god. The Leaders are not geniuses. They're just overgrown versions of your Student Council President, local Homeowners Committee, or in the PRISM case, peeping toms, backed by gifted technicians and engineers. In fact, due to government hiring practices, a large portion of government employees are borderline retards, with IQs a full standard deviation below your average Zero Hedge reader. So why can't we outcreate them?

We need to put down our remotes, mice, distractions and act. Not because you can change the system, not because you can make the world a better place, not because you can have a secure retirement, etc. Only you can only save yourself, and this merely requires you to do something. Any act of rebellion is an assertion of your own power, which is the only one that can ultimately make a difference in your life. You act to assert your will. Once the will is summoned, no government can stamp it out.

I do not advocate violence. Not because I don't think it will be necessary, it is. But you must crawl before you can run. The people who need taking down do violence professionally, and they will beat you at it. So prank them, shame them, ridicule them. Open a safe deposit box at ShittyBank and leave a dead fish in it. Toilet paper their house. Disrupt their comfortable little lives and sow chaos and dissension. Disrupt the Animal Farm.

But above all, act to assert yourself. Exercise your will. Everything else can follow. But we must first overcome our own paralysis.



Spanky's picture

+1 Yes_Questions


Svendblaaskaeg's picture

Thanks macholatte, a very appropriate quote

underman's picture

I personally cannot believe this is real.  It's the stuff of nightmares, prophetic literature and sci-fi films. This is the good ol red white and blue!  The envy of the entire world just a few short years ago.  Fly-fishing.  Baseball in summer.  SoCal beaches and bikinis.  Wtf is happening?  Is it really all coming to a mad train wreck with cell phones, facebook, google and ipads?    

varnelius's picture

After everything I've seen/read/heard in the past week (and the extrapolations possible by connecting the dots), I feel the need to corner the market in Tin Foil.

Amazing that the 1%ers have been able to demonize those who were the early awaken ones who were trying to warn the rest of us.

j0nx's picture

Liberalism, political correctness and a schism between conservatives and liberals breaking down the moral and social fabric of the nation. Easy to take over a nation after that. In a nutshell. Don't listen to anyone that tells you we aren't dangerously close to a civil war in this country. I've never seen it so divided and neither side wants to be around or associated with the other.

Baldrick's picture

The barriers have just shifted. Read the comments of the nyt, abc, cbs, yahoo, even huffpo, edward has just ripped the curtain off the rail and exposed the fascism. The recognized division is now between dc and the rest of the country, which is still armed. I have been elated and smiling since last week because this event is the black swan.

Glasnost's picture

The problem with the world?



Tyranny?  Eventually fails.  Democracy?  Fails or melts into tyranny.


Governments have failed for the past 6000 years.  Can somebody please explain why the hell we think it's a good idea to still have them?

Humans and their need/desire for such a type of structure is truly astounding.  Why can't we all be like plankton or something.

Oldwood's picture

Do you think plankton has no structure? What you are asking for is EXACTLY what our leaders seek. A mindless horde of bees where there are a few "queens" and the rest are mindless worker bees going about their business. This glorious efficiency is the core principle of every tyranical system put in place. The whole concept is a concentrated central control of everything. All of your despised turmoil is ultimately the expression of man's need for freedom and liberty. But, you are correct. An ant hill does look peaceful.

Spanky's picture

"Can somebody please explain why the hell we think it's a good idea to still have them [governments]? -- Glasnost

Short answer: Give me everything you've got and I might let you live.

Long answer: Without government to provide some semblance of law and order on an ordinary, day-to-day basis, you'll have to deal with me. I don't give a damn about you and your honorable beliefs, nor do I play fair, nor do I care what you think of me. I'll use violence as a first resort to get what I want. And if, by chance you escape my devious plots and ambushes to steal your food and take your valuables, and manage somehow to take me down, tomorrow another desperate, armed and starving man will take my place. In a phrase, life will again become nasty, brutish and short. God how I *love* anarchy.

Glasnost's picture

I like anarchy too.


"You need the government to protect you."

Biggest lie ever drilled into the head of people.


I am not denying that people will seek to raid others because of greed, but who says the people coming to raid have to 'win'?

"“God forbid,” he said, “that I should so wrong the Troglodytes as to make them believe that no one among them was more just than I. You offer me the crown, and if you absolutely insist, I must of course accept it; but rest assured that I will die of grief to see the Troglodytes, free since my birth, submit now to a master.” With these words he burst into tears. “O miserable day!” he exclaimed. “Why have I lived so long?” Then his voice became severe. “I see very well what is happening, Troglodytes. Your virtue is beginning to burden you. In your present leaderless state you must be virtuous in spite of yourselves, for if you were not you could not exist, and you would fall into your ancestors’ misery. But this yoke seems too hard; you prefer to submit yourselves to a prince and to obey his laws, which would be less exacting than your own morality. You know that under such laws you will be able to indulge your ambition, acquire riches, and languish in mean pleasures; you know that, so long as you avoid actual crime, you will not need virtue.” He stopped for a moment; his tears flowed faster than ever. “And what do you suppose I could do? How could I command anything of a Troglodyte? Would you have an act deemed virtuous because I required it, when it would have been done anyway, by natural instinct? O Troglodytes, I am at the end of my life; the blood grows colder in my veins. I will soon rejoin your revered ancestors; why do you ask me to afflict them, and oblige me to tell them that I have left you under a yoke other than that of virtue?”"

Jumbotron's picture

"But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.


We're willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start. All that we're asking in return is your cooperation in bringing a known terrorist to justice.


I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

Ahhh.....Morpheus from "The Matrix"

As I have been saying for years on this site.....The Matrix is much less fiction and much more of a documentary.


markettime's picture

And no one is going to do anything about it. Might as well take possession of your stock certs or get out of the system because it is only going to get worse. 

mkkby's picture

This shows how technology overall is a curse.  What do we get out of it?  Some cheap entertainment... in exchange for total loss of privacy, HFT, 24x7 work, and drones.  The boss wins again.

Looks like Ted Kazinsky was right all along.  I pray for the EMP that wipes it all out.  I wish I'd been born 200 years ago when the earth was pristine.  Or 200 years from now when it's all forgotten. 

Jim in MN's picture

The Devil is in them.

All the values of a wood tick.

exi1ed0ne's picture

Solent Green is people.  Om nom nom.

rustymason's picture

If corporations are people, and Soylent Green is people, then ...

Jumbotron's picture

"The Devil is in them.

All the values of a wood tick."


In the words of Jesse Ventura in "Predator"......."They're dug in deeper than an Alabama tick."


Jim in MN's picture

Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of all, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O my people: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

--Joshua 7:13

Uber Vandal's picture

In regards to the deepr you go, the deeper it gets and more to pull out, just play hide and seek with yourself, or even your e mail adress, at some of the sites below.

Some of the info is not entirely accurate, but close enough.

Just for fun, I plugged in a friend in the first listed site above, and a google street view of the front door of his apartment showed up FFS.

And that, google street view, raises a whole other set of issues....


Coast Watcher's picture

Jeeezus. I plugged my own name into Spokeo and up popped not only my current address, complete with Google sat photo, but also the house where we lived in the early 1980s, long before the Internet Age had started. How the hell did they get that one?

Y'know how we all say that yesterday's tinfoil is today's headlines? These days I think we can skip right past the tinfoil.