The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald today posted a lengthy article detailing some of the fallout, both personal and political, from his reporting on the National Security Agency’s PRISM program. While Greenwald promises that what has been reported so far is just the tip of the iceberg of the administration’s surveillance activities, his claim that the NSA has “direct access” to the servers of nine Internet companies seems to be falling apart.

The CEOs of both Facebook and Google issued statements denying that claim of “direct access,” and technical experts are backing up that claim with their independent analysis. ZDNet’s Ed Bott concludes in a piece today that “the botched reporting by the Guardian and the [Washington] Post means that millions of readers directed their anger at a handful of big companies that were unfairly accused of selling out their customers to the national security apparatus.”

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones concurs, arguing that Greenwald seems to have misinterpreted the PowerPoint slide deck claiming “direct access” to “servers.” Rick Perlstein of The Nation concurs.

The Guardian, through other reporters, has walked back the “direct access” story.

The Guardian understands that the NSA approached those companies and asked them to enable a “dropbox” system whereby legally requested data could be copied from their own server out to an NSA-owned system. That has allowed the companies to deny that there is “direct or indirect” NSA access, to deny that there is a “back door” to their systems, and that they only comply with “legal” requests – while not explaining the scope of that access.