Welcome to 1984

We can all relax now. All that hand wringing over the National Security Agency possibly listening in on phone calls or reading our emails was just a joke.

We wish.

There was quite an uproar over a program called PRISM, which allowed the NSA to obtain massive amounts of online data by forcing companies like Yahoo and Google to turn over any data approved by a court no one has ever heard of. In case you were wondering, that court is known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

In a nutshell, if the NSA wanted something, they could go to the FISC and order Google to turn over some email. All protected because of the legality of that court.

But like the Ginsu knife commercial — but wait, there’s more.

According to The Washington Post and the Guardian (a British newspaper), the NSA has secretly broken into the main communications lines of Yahoo and Google that connect to the companies’ various data centers. The new program is called MUSCULAR. Quite appropriate is seems.

What’s that mean to us?

“By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans,” the Post article said. “According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said field collectors had processed and sent back 18,280,466 new records — including ‘metadata,’ which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.”

In its response, according to the Post, the NSA is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about foreign intelligence targets only.”

Whew. We were worried there for a moment. We’re all for eavesdropping on people with funny names, especially when they mention words like “bomb.” And we can understand wanting to find out what various world leaders are up to, especially people like Ali Khamenei of Iran, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Pope Francis … wait, what? Yes, appears the NSA took quite an interest in the pope prior to him being named pope, according to other reports, saying his phone calls were monitored.

For their part, senior Yahoo and Google officials are said to be slightly ticked off. “In a statement, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said the company has ‘long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping’ and has not provided the government with access to its systems,” the Post said. “‘We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform,’ he said.”

Again, as its most basic, if these news articles are accurate, the NSA is now secretly breaking into American companies’ most secured information. That means you, and yes, the pope, have lost all semblance of privacy.

Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984.

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