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Ear to the Ground

Tech Giants Knew About NSA Surveillance

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Posted on Mar 23, 2014

Photo by Seth Anderson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency said Wednesday that U.S. technology companies such as Yahoo and Google were fully in the know about the spy agency’s widespread collection of their customers’ data, contrary to claims they made at the time those programs became publicly known.

The Guardian reports:

Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”

When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke the Prism story in June, thanks to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL – claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had “never heard” the term Prism.

De explained: “Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,” De said. “Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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