Over the last few weeks the world has learned a lot about domestic surveillance programs conducted by the super-secret National Security Agency since 9-11. However, there hasn’t been much written about why NSA felt it had to turn to companies like Microsoft and Google to keep track of terrorists. To understand that part of the puzzle, you have to grasp how the emergence of new technologies such a fiber-optic lines and packet-switching have undermined NSA’s traditional approach to monitoring communications traffic. Because so much of the world’s Internet bandwidth capacity leads to and from the United States, it became feasible for NSA to keep tabs on foreign threats without leaving home — as long as Internet service providers and telecom carriers cooperated. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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