The latest revelations about NSA surveillance were pretty shocking. Under the headline "NSA Infiltrates Links to Yahoo, Google Data Centers Worldwide, Snowden Documents Say," Barton Gellman of the Washington Post (10/30/13) reported that the agency "has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world," and that 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 NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.
The Post story includes this anecdote about one of the Snowden files: "Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing."
So on October 30, the CBS Evening News decided to cover the story. Sort of.
SCOTT PELLEY: The Washington Post this evening is publishing more information from Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency computer technician who is spilling the secrets of U.S. surveillance. Bob Orr is our Homeland Security correspondent. And, Bob, today's story says the National Security Agency may be stealing the communications of the networks of Google and Yahoo!. What did you find out about that today?
BOB ORR: Well, Scott, it seems the NSA is getting far more aggressive than it's been in pushing back at these stories based on the leaks you mentioned from Edward Snowden. Specifically, today NSA chief Keith Alexander denied that Washington Post report which has claimed that the U.S. government is using some kind of secret backdoor or backdoors to routinely scoop up millions of communication records from users of Yahoo! and Google. Alexander made a point of saying that NSA does get information from those Internet search companies, Scott, but he said only through court orders.
So the real story, evidently, is the NSA's pushback–not the story itself. CBS has not established an especially notable record on the Snowden/NSA story–the newscast filed a short, bizarre report (FAIR Blog, 8/16/13) that misconstrued a Snowden comment to suggest he was admitting he was a spy. And somehow CBS has decided, against all the evidence, that what the NSA says about itself should be taken at face value. Nothing to see here, folks.