Saying that the National Security Agency has a history of poking its nose into other people's business understates the case — the NSA basically exists to creep the world out with over-the-top and constitutionally questionable nosiness. So, it was no small matter when the NSA and Google, the intersection of most everybody's online life, began chatting in the aftermath of a 2010 cyberattack on Chinese human rights activists. But we're unlikely to learn anything about that relationship soon, now that a federal court has rejected the Electronic Privacy Information Center's freedom of information request for the skinny on collaboration between the spook agency and the tech giant.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today the National Security need neither "confirm nor deny" the existence of any records about the agency's relationship with Google, even after such a collaboration was widely reported in the national media.
Specifically, in the ruling (PDF), Judge Brown wrote that the court was persuaded by the NSA's motion for summary judgment, including what sounds like a "we could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you" declaration by Diane M. Janosek, NSA Deputy Associate Director for Policy and Records:
The Declaration further explains that if NSA disclosed whether there are (or are not) records of a partnership or communications between Google and NSA regarding Google's security, that disclosure might reveal whether NSA investigated the threat, deemed the threat a concern to the security of U.S. Government information systems, or took any measures in response to the threat. As such, any information pertaining to the relationship between Google and NSA would reveal protected information about NSA's implementation of its Information Assurance mission.
So … Is the NSA working with Google? Is there anything to be concerned about in such a relationship?
The court's decision cites a Washington Post article quoting former NSA director Mike McConnell saying that collaboration between NSA and private companies like Google was "inevitable." So, draw your own conclusions.