SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Edward Snowden, the former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor whose work with the National Security Agency (NSA) provided him access to extremely classified U.S. intelligence, shocked the world when he exposed sensitive details about the Obama administration's warrantless wiretapping of private communications between innumerable U.S. citizens with no ties to terrorism. On Wednesday, the self-confessed leaker went on to allege that the U.S. government has also been undertaking enormous hacking operations against targets in China since 2009, part of more than 61,000 similar initiatives worldwide. But Snowden's revelations didn't end there. He rocked the boat again early Thursday morning from his self-imposed exile in Hong Kong when he showed the South China Morning Post evidence that Facebook was conceived as a government data collection tool, and that Mark Zuckerberg doesn't really exist.
"He's [Zuckerberg] the unemployed nephew of a ranking NSA official, whose aspirations of becoming an actor never materialized...until plans for 'Operation Code Name: Facemash' were drawn up and executed around 2003," Snowden told reporters from various Chinese news agencies, as well as The Washington Post and the British paper Guardian. "Mark Zuckerberg is a fictional character."
Journalists with those media verified that they had reviewed the documents Snowden provided as proof of his claims. None were willing to offer comments, citing the need for additional time to validate the authenticity of the materials.
"I suppose I should've seen this all along, though," one editor admitted. "Mark Zuckerberg was almost too cartoonish to be real. His hoodie, his overblown sense of self, his hyperbolic and stereotypical portrayal of someone with Asperger's, the stupid policies, the prodigal financial decisions, like one billion to acquire Instagram, and his weird little dog. Quite ridiculous when you consider it."
In fact, Snowden explained, the Facebook developers were the real geniuses behind the covert spying program launched in the early days of the Bush administration, following 9/11.
"Even now, the media are grilling James Clapper over PRISM. But PRISM is the ruse. It's the diversion to keep the focus off Facebook," Snowden said. "Have you heard Clapper's answers to questions? Nobody would be that flip over something so serious...unless it wasn't serious."
Snowden's references allude to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's appearance on NBC News this Monday. When questioned about the need for the U.S. government to surreptitiously collect phone records for nearly every American citizen, Clapper quipped, "Well, you have to start someplace."
The breadth of the phone surveillance program seemed to further complicate the Obama administration's attempts to downplay PRISM, a separate but equally controversial domestic spying program.
President Obama said people weren't being monitored on the Internet, but PRISM facilitates just that by allowing the NSA to access the data streams of Internet service providers and telecoms, snatching up emails, videos, chats, photographs and other communications between private citizens.
PRISM was also born during the Bush reign, although it too has become a bastard son to Obama. But programs like PRISM -- and the government's awkward attempts to tamp down the public outcry -- are apparently the big jokes. The red herrings. The MacGuffins used to distract people from spending a careful moment thinking about Facebook.
"What's better than spending thousands of man hours and resources to gather, mine and then interpret data?" Snowden asked. "I'll tell you: having that data self-reported. That's where Facebook comes in."
Facebook is the most ingenious spy tool because, Snowden alleges in his leaks, it entices people to make public their most intimate private situations, in granular detail.
"Pictures, videos, drunken rants, dinner menus, grocery lists, career frustrations, dark family secrets, everything is on display across Facebook," Snowden said. "Data analysts no longer need to sift through information and determine what is meaningful or meaningless, because that's self-identified too by users 'sharing' and 'liking' posts. And if you're not posting enough on Facebook, the peer pressure from friends and the incessant email prompts from Facebook drive you back to this very transparent confessional. All the NSA needs to do is sit back and read the posts."
According to Snowden, the Facebook team within the NSA humorously refers to itself as the "National Systems Administrator."
And even Facebook's horrendous lack of privacy controls and ill-communicated changes in user data policies, all clues to the social network's true origins and intent, are met by users with little more than temporary grousing -- which they also post on their Facebook profiles.
"The whole Verizon phone tapping thing petered out pretty quickly," Snowden observed. "The Internet promised a bigger world of possibilities. Mostly because of ATT's poor coverage; the government couldn't get any useful intelligence with all the dropped calls. Facebook was a brilliant but pathetically obvious solution to a complex problem. And it's still working. And some uneducated, out-of-work actor with a relative in high places gets to keep living the lavish but pretend life of Mark Zuckerberg."
Snowden laughed pensively and added: "It's German for 'sugar mountain,' you know? The name Zuckerberg. In English, it also sounds a lot like 'Sucker Burg.' Seriously, how are so many Americans not getting this joke?"
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