The original news reports on the National Security Agency leaker's information about U.S. surveillance programs has "left a misimpression" about the government's access to technology companies' data and the complicity of companies, well-known tech investor Marc Andreessen told CNBC on Wednesday.
The initial reporting from the Washington Post and the Guardian of the U.K. "in retrospect has been very sloppy and shoddy," Andreessen said in a "Squawk Box" interview from the HP Discover Las Vegas technology conference.
The co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz argued the newspapers misinterpreted the classified documents provided by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden when they reported that the government's secret PRISM program claimed to have direct access to the servers of many top technology companies.
Tech giants, including Google and Facebook, have said they do not provide any government agency with "direct access" to their servers. "The companies' statements are all completely consistent," Andreessen observed. "Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook shareholders meeting yesterday, I was at, was adamant on this." The companies also stressed they only respond to court orders for data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
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This past weekend, National Intelligence Director James Clapper confirmed the U.S. does use a program called PRISM and released a fact sheet on it.
"PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program. It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government's statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a). This authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008."
"There's this long-established pattern with these court orders," Andreessen explained. "Google, Microsoft, Facebook are actually now going to the government for permission to talk more about these court orders and the process."
Andreessen didn't want to comment on the separate reports of the FISA order requiring a subsidiary of Verizon Communications to give the NSA raw data showing phone calls made from numbers within the U.S. and from U.S. numbers to those overseas.
"I'm not a telecom expert," he explained, but "technology in our society and the Internet in our society is a central issue."
"The original reporting simply did not understand the technology," he chided. "It's almost like there are these magic servers" where everything is stored.
"These companies run thousands of different kinds of servers," he added. "There's no single server."