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Bruce Schneier sneers at IBM's NSA denials

Security chap pens open letter to Big Blue blowing holes in Big Blue's open letter

Bruce Schneier

Ten days ago IBM issued ”A Letter to Our Clients About Government Access to Data” that, as we reported, swore on all that is good and holy that it did not hand over data to the NSA and would never do such a thing.

But the letter did not satisfy security commentator Bruce Schneier who's penned an open letter of his own to Big Blue.

Schneier first takes issue with IBM's statement that it did not give the NSA anything under the PRISM program, because “PRISM” was an internal name used by the NSA alone. Schneier thinks that leaves wriggle room for IBM to have handed over data under another program. In a similar vein he notes IBM's denial that it handed over bulk user data, but opines that IBM doesn't hold the same kind of data as the likes of Google. That caveat again sees him ask if IBM complied with another program.

Next up is a question putting to IBM the notion that “ … you say that you haven't provided any data stored outside the US to the NSA under a national security order. Since those national security orders prohibit you from disclosing their existence, would you say anything different if you did receive them?”

“And even if we believe this statement, it implies two questions. Why did you specifically not talk about data stored inside the US? And why did you specifically not talk about providing data under another sort of order?”

Commenters on Schneier's blog are split on the letter's merits. Some feel it's possible to find loopholes anywhere. Others are sympathetic to his view that IBM has deliberately worded things very carefully to give itself wiggle room.

And you, dear readers? ®

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