$250 Million business partnership with two journalists-Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, a journalist duo who possess the entire cache of evidence provided by Edward Snowden. Despite earlier pledges by the journalists in question, only one percent (1%) of Snowden's documents has been released.
BFP was recently contacted by a retired NSA official who claims that the documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contain extensive documentation pertaining to NSA's partnership with major U.S. financial institutions, including credit card companies and PayPal Corporation. The official, who requested anonymity, also alleges that a deal was made in early June, 2013 between the journalists involved in this recent NSA scandal and U.S. government officials, which was then sealed by secrecy and nondisclosure agreements by all parties involved.
Upon receiving this report BFP contacted three other high-level former NSA officials for additional information and comments.
On December 11, 2013 we contacted Mr. William Binney, a former top official at the National Security Agency (NSA), and asked him to comment on the legitimacy of the above report, and whether he had any knowledge of the partnership and cooperation between NSA and financial institutions such as PayPal. He confirmed the legitimacy of the report and added:
The NSA has had the cooperation of major financial institutions, including credit card companies, to obtain all financial transactions of these companies' clients-international and domestic. Further, the NSA not only obtains and stores the financial data of Americans and foreigners, but it also shares them with other government agencies such as the FBI and DEA.When asked about the apparent conflict of interest and controversy involving the new business venture between the journalists in question and PayPal's billionaire owner Pierre Omidyar, he had the following statement:
Sunlight, transparency, is the only cure; the only way to bring about needed changes. This is why the public is entitled to have all the evidence and documents. The partnership with PayPal's owner, thus, the new ownership of Mr. Snowden's documents by an individual who is implicated in these documents, presents grave concerns and consequences, and a major conflict of interest for transparency, integrity and whistleblowers.Russell Tice, a former NSA Intelligence Analyst and Capabilities Operations Officer, also confirmed the report, and stated that based on his knowledge, NSA regularly obtains financial information from major financial institutions, including credit card companies and PayPal. In January 2009, during an interview with Keith Olberman, he stated that information from credit card records and other financial transaction was being collected and stored by NSA (See the interview here).
On December 10, 2013, in an exclusive interview with BFP, Mr. Tice expanded upon the NSA-Financial Institutions collusion:
For NSA, information from financial institutions such as PayPal is equally if not more valuable and sought after than that obtained from social media and other software companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google." He added, "I wouldn't doubt the existence of evidence and documents implicating corporations such as PayPal within the large cache obtained by Edward Snowden. The partnership and data collection arrangements have existed for many years.When asked about his opinion on Glenn Greenwald's new $250 Million venture partnership with PayPal Corporation's billionaire owner Pierre Omidyar, multi-million dollar book and movie deals, and recent unexplained immunity from the U.S. government, he stated the following:
I would be outraged and highly vocal if I were in Edward Snowden's shoes. For a journalist whom I had placed my trust in to go and withhold documents meant for the public?! For the journalist to make fortune and fame based on my sacrifices and disclosure?! Forming a lucrative business partnership with entities who have direct conflicts of interest?! No. That wouldn't have been acceptable.Despite our submitted requests for confirmation, denial or comments, PayPal has refrained from responding to this report and contained allegations.
Other whistleblowers from the intelligence community have also expressed grave concerns over the serious implications of the recent venture partnership between journalist Glenn Greenwald and PayPal owner Pierre Omidyar. Indeed, the journalists in question have decided to hold back the release of the remaining 99% of the whistleblower's documents, and have been inconsistent and vague as to when and how much they intend to release further documents. Their decision to withhold the majority of the documents appears to coincide with their new $250 million business venture with PayPal's Omidyar, and recent mega-bucks book and movie deals.
Crytome.Org's John Young, whom we sought comments from for this news story, considers the claims by these former NSA insiders valid and legitimate:
Government access to financial transactions has always been top priority for all government agencies, worldwide. Nothing is more important to governments than where the money is, especially money for taxation required to avoid death-stake in the heart of governments. So it is consistent that NSA (and other spies) have access to all on- and off-line financial services providers. As you know, financial services are required to cooperate with their governments, perhaps second only to defense industries, perhaps first due to the need to track worldwide arms sales. Control of arms means control of wealth, and nothing is more appreciated by the few wealthy to offload arms cost to millions of taxpayers.We asked Mr. Young how he viewed the implications of the same billionaire who is allegedly implicated in these documents, buying out the involved reporters (both of them) and getting ownership of the whistleblower's leaked documents:
Billionaires are as obliged as financial services to cooperate with governments in order to protect their wealth and to guard against excessive taxation, expropriation, confiscation, prosecution, stigmatization and exclusion from government contracts. Cooperation with governments is essential for wealth accumulation, the greater the wealth the greater the cooperation... Whistleblowing on the whistleblowing industry is overdue, but that will take courage and ingenuity to avoid appearing to have been taken over by those expecting to avoid full disclosure.Here is what WikiLeaks had to say about Pierre Omidyar and his PayPal Corporation's war on whistleblowers:
How can you take something seriously when the person behind this platform went along with the financial boycott against WikiLeaks?" Harrison was referring to the decision in December 2010 by PayPal, which is owned by eBay, to suspend WikiLeaks' donation account and freeze its assets after pressure from the US government. The company's boycott, combined with similar action taken by Visa and Mastercard, left WikiLeaks facing a funding crisis.Whistleblower William Russell, who served with the NSA, U.S. Secret Service, and as an officer and transport pilot with the U.S. Marine Corps, had the following reaction to this exploitive PayPal-Journalist-Government collusion:
His excuse is probably that there is nothing he could have done at the time," Harrison continued. "Well, he is on the board of directors. He can't shake off responsibility that easily. He didn't even comment on it. He could have said something like: 'we were forced to do this, but I am against it'.
I completely agree with these whistleblowers. This is a major conflict of interest and highly convoluted. Omidyar has billions at stake if the details of his cooperation with government is ever exposed. So this guy pays $250 million and buys out the 2 journalists who have the entire cache?! Simply outrageous!"Sibel Edmonds, the founder and director of National Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) which represents over 150 government national security whistleblowers, states:
We have been told that these journalists have had over one hundred meetings with U.S. government officials in order to clear what "could be" or "could not be" released. That's a fact, and it is highly disturbing. On one hand they say the government considers these documents and revelations highly classified and stolen property. Yet, we see a mainstream publisher offering millions of dollars to the journalist, and getting a 'go ahead' from the US government to publish it. We see a billionaire corporate man, never known for being pro civil liberties or Human Rights, and someone who is implicated in these illegal government activities paying off the journalists and getting ownership of the NSA documents. We see a government sanctioned Hollywood mega-million movie deal. We see lies, inconsistencies, contradictions, censorship, voluntary withholding, exploitation of a whistleblower ... This smoke and mirrors filled fakery stinks to high heaven!As stated by Guardian's Rusbridger, who recently gave evidence to the British parliamentary committee about stories based on Snowden's NSA leaks: Greenwald and the Guardian had consulted with government officials and intelligence agencies - including the FBI, GCHQ, the White House and the Cabinet Office - on more than 100 occasions before the publication of stories.
The enormous conflict of interest and ethical impropriety of PayPal owner Omidyar's business venture with Glenn Greenwald, the journalist in possession of the documents, is not limited to PayPal being directly implicated in documents exposing NSA's illegal activities and operations. There are other equally disturbing and outrageous facts that put in question the integrity of the journalists, including their sudden enormous gains, wealth, fame, and the apparent government's consent.
There is documented evidence illustrating Pierre Omidyar's historical attitude and position on publishers, reporters and whistleblowers who publicize incriminating government documents. Here is one, coming directly from billionaire Omidyar:
But please don't be mistaken. Pierre Omidyar doesn't only talk the talk. No sir, the man actually walks his talk. Slightly over a year after Omidyar made the above statement he engaged in the following action:
NEW YORK: US-based online payment service PayPal has decided to block financial transfers to WikiLeaks after governments around the world initiated legal action against the whistleblower website.Wikileaks was not the only whistleblower entity to fall victim to PayPal's war on government whistleblowers'. In 2011, two years after freezing Wikileaks' account, Omidyar's PayPal cut off the account for Bradley Manning Support:
PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity," PayPal said in statement released late Friday.
Glyn Moody now points us to the news that PayPal has also decided to cut off the group "Courage to Resist," which was handling funds for Bradley Manning's defense effort. PayPal admits there's no legal basis for this. Apparently, the company just doesn't believe that some people should be allowed a fair trial.Then, yet another recent example of violations inflicted by PayPal, this time upon Mailpile. Mailpile attempted to create a webmail client that is built with both security and usability in mind to counter government's intrusions into hosted webmail accounts:
The report also notes that they've had a PayPal account in good standing since 2006, with no problems at all. It's only once they were taking funds for Bradley Manning that PayPal shut them down. This is somewhat horrifying, frankly, and raises serious questions about PayPal as a business worth trusting.
PayPal, for reasons known only to PayPal, has decided to freeze their funds and won't let Mailpile access the money that people donated... PayPal is demanding an insane level of detail into Mailpile's personal finances and business... Even worse, it seems that the folks at PayPal recognize that it holds power over Mailpile, and seems almost to be lording that power over them...The history of the billionaire's stand and actions, when it comes to liberties, whistleblowers and freedom of the press, seems to be limited to: opposing, fighting and quashing government whistleblowers at every chance. Simply put, Mr. Omidyar has been consistently maintaining his stand as a billionaire who is pro-government, anti-government whistleblowers, and against transparency.
Omidyar's pro government and anti-whistleblowers philosophy and principles are shared equally when it comes to his partners and close associates. Here is Mr. Omidyar's PayPal Partner and close friend- Max Levchin, who says that the NSA isn't being evil, and that the agency's violation is for our own good and protection from terrorists:
The NSA is designed to protect us from terrorism, so even if it oversteps its bounds, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin says we shouldn't hate it. That's diametrically opposed to the sentiment of many in the tech industry, including Michael Arrington who thinks the NSA's spying doesn't stop terrorism - it is terrorism.Let's watch Pierre Omidyar's PayPal partner and close friend in action, shall we?:
I think it's ridiculous for a citizen of a country that view his government's duty to protect me, protect all of us from evil, from harm, from terrorists, from foreign powers meaning ill - to classify a body of government that is designed to figure out what might hit us next and prevent it, throwing them into an evil bucket is just thoughtless.
This interview was conducted in the summer of 2013. This was right in the midst of the Edward Snowden and NSA Scandal. This is what Pierre Omidyar and his closest friend and PayPal partner believed then. And this is what they believe now. There has been no change either in Omidyar's or his partner's position and belief since. There has been zero indication of either of them seeing the light called civil liberties.
PayPal co-founder Max Levchin is not the only PayPal man who is pro-NSA illegal surveillance and corporate-government partnerships in targeting the population at large. Here are other PayPal Men and former partners who have been directly linked to government spying and surveillance operations, and of course, the CIA:
Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley firm, is, according to the tipster, providing the technology that enables the mass-surveillance NSA project known as PRISM.Here is more on this CIA Company and its originators, all from PayPal's early days:
Palantir (which, at time of writing, had not responded to requests for comment) was founded in 2004 by, among others, venture capitalist Peter Thiel and CEO Alex Karp. It's a sort of second-party data intelligence company - it's not a public company, but it was founded with early investment from the CIA and is heavily used by the military and the White House. Karp is an ex-PayPal guy, and leveraged his expertise in security he gained at PayPal (which was constantly fighting off hackers) into his new venture.
Palantir's advisors include Condoleezza Rice and former CIA director George Tenet, who says in an interview that "I wish we had a tool of its power" before 9/11. General David Petraeus, the most recent former CIA chief, describes Palantir to FORBES as "a better mousetrap when a better mousetrap was needed" ...We must not forget PayPal's position and its actual business goals. PayPal is an international e-commerce business allowing payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet. It operates in 190 markets and manages more than 232 million accounts, more than 100 million of them active. PayPal allows customers to send, receive, and hold funds in 26 currencies worldwide. It is subject to the US economic sanction list and subject to other rules and interventions required by US laws or the government. All that, and the fact that PayPal has always been a valuable asset and partner of the U.S. government, even when it comes to operations directed against the people's rights and privacy.
Remember, NSA wants access to our data. All data. Based on the latest revelations we already know that:
"Companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft - they all get together with the NSA and provide the NSA with direct access to the backends to all of the systems you use to communicate, to store your data, to put things in the cloud, and even just to send birthday wishes and keep a record of your life. And they give the NSA direct access that they don't need to oversee, so they can't be held liable for it."So far, Greenwald and the rest of the mainstream media have been emphasizing a handful of company names valuable to the NSA as great sources of data gathering on individuals - companies and organizations such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft. Now think about it, if NSA is that interested in garbage personal details we post on Facebook, how interested would it be in a far more telling database such as PayPal, where it can get all our expenditures, money transfers, payments and donations?
Prior to Snowden revelations we had NSA's easy access to and control of telecommunication companies such as AT&T and Verizon. Recently, based on less than 1% of Snowden's documents we became aware of NSA's incestuous partnership with social media and software companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple.
We still don't have access to 99% of Snowden's NSA documents and revelations. Obviously the 50,000+ page documentations includes many other companies and organizations, including those in possession of the public's financial transaction data. We are talking credit card companies and other related financial institutions. More importantly, we are talking about one of the world's largest online money transfer entities, PayPal Corporation.
Thus, we all should be alarmed when we see that those implicated in the whistleblower's documented evidence are now forming a multi-million dollar business venture with those in possession of that evidence. We all must question the unexplained changes in the U.S. government's position on the ownership and publication of these documents. We must all be wary when we see how readily mainstream publishers and Hollywood studios are signing up to publicize these documents and the case with some unexplained immunity. We have to ask ourselves: what has changed? What gives? Only a few months ago there was all this talks about apprehension, jailing, hanging and droning of all parties involved. Only a few months ago the parties involved put on a magnificent show on how they were threatened, endangered, and were going to be persecuted and prosecuted. Then, suddenly, something changed. Something gave. Was it a secret deal struck between the government and the involved parties establishing immunity and support in return for something much more cynical and dark? Was it the involved parties using the cache as a blackmailing tool to secure a $250 million payoff? Was it a solemn oath to withhold and never release the 'real' deal in return for a glamorous life with Hollywood studio deals and multi-million dollar book contracts?
Which one is it? We have no way of knowing, since lips seem to have been sealed, and the release of the 'real' documents has been vaguely put on hold for years to come. On the other hand, thanks to some 'real' whistleblowers out there, we are getting some information putting this smoke and mirrors filled stage into perspective. Even if so far we have gotten to see only the tip of this convoluted and corrupted iceberg.
Sibel Edmonds is the author of the Memoir Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. She is the founder & director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), and the recipient of the 2006 PEN Newman's Own First Amendment Award Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University, and AS degree in Biology from NVCC. She is a certified linguist for Turkish, Farsi, Dari and Azerbaijani languages.