News about NSA spying programs has been breaking at a dizzying pace since the initial stories based on Edward Snowden’s leaks were published by Glenn Greenwald. The big news last week was that there are NSA efforts to tap the network connections used to route internal traffic for huge online companies like Google and Yahoo. The Washington Post has the gory details today, including slides leaked by Snowden that show what looks like traffic captured from Google’s internal network.
It’s also interesting that the NSA operates much like multinational companies that set up shell companies all over the world to minimize their tax bill. They set up their network taps in specific geographic areas in order to minimize the amount of oversight they face. It’s illegal for the NSA to vacuum up all of Google’s network traffic if they tap network connections inside the United States, but it’s perfectly legal if they do it overseas. Google happily sends data belonging to Americans all over the world for perfectly valid reasons, and the fact that the NSA is spying on Americans in this way is irrelevant in the eyes of the law. (I should add that this is not a new practice, this is how ECHELON was used as well.)