Catch-up! June 7 20113: The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill reported that PRISM was the source for more than 2,000 intelligence reports each month. More than 24,000 reports were issued in 2012. A total of 77,000 intelligence reports have cited PRISM since the program began six years ago.
US intelligence agencies are accessing the servers of nine internet giants as part of a secret data mining program, according to reports from the US and Britain. The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency NSA and FBI had direct access to servers which allowed them to track an individual’s web presence via audio, video, photographs, emails and connection logs.
Seems ALL of Silicon Valley’s behemoths are involved in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube, amusingly they’ve ALL denied any participation in the program. Presently, Twitter seems to be the ONLY techbehemoth NOT taking part in PRISM?
The USA’s top spy James R. Clapper said the stories contained “numerous inaccuracies,” but he did not offer any details. And he said the law that allowed US government agencies to collect communications from internet companies only permitted the targeting of “non-US persons” outside the United States.
UPDATE! 11 June 2013: The US government intrusion into the private lives of everyday citizens – via PRISM – smells a bunch like coldwar style spy tactics, a regime that the US has long criticised China for.
:: Update continued at the foot of this post :: UPDATES
Original Post Cont’d: The reports came after Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a leaked court order directing Verizon - one of America’s largest phone companies - to hand over telephone data to the FBI.
Without directly confirming the report, the White House broadly defended the seizures of such information as a “critical tool in protecting the country from terrorist threats”. The Obama administration says its secret collection of phone records of millions of Americans is an essential step in combating terrorism.
The order that kicked all of this off requires Verizon to disclose telephone numbers and the time and duration of calls to the NSA. That means calls within the US and between the US and other countries are given to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis”.
As the story broke, The Washington Post reported that the top secret server intercept program – code-named PRISM – had been established in 2007. It said the program had grown “exponentially” to be the most significant contributor of intelligence to president Barack Obama’s daily briefings, accounting for one in seven intelligence reports.
An anonymous senior administration official told Reuters the information collected through PRISM targeted non-US persons living outside the United States.
“This program was recently reauthorised by Congress after extensive hearings and debate,” the official said. ”Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”
The Washington Post revelations, also reported by the Guardian, come amid a furore over the government’s monitoring of phone communications, which has reopened debate over surveillance methods first adopted by George W Bush’s administration after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The wide-scale monitoring of millions of Americans’ mobile phone records by the US intelligence community under Mr Obama has been decried as “Orwellian” by civil liberty groups. The Guardian said PRISM allowed the intelligence community to collect information such as search history, emails, file transfers and live chats.
- Guardian published court order ordering Verizon to hand phone records to the government
- White House says data seizures are “critical tool” to protect America from terrorism
- Civil Liberty Proponents say program is “beyond Orwellian”
- White House says Barack Obama “welcomes debate” on the issue
What You Need To KNOW!
What’s been revealed, why does it matter?
- The first program to be revealed is a massive effort by spy agencies – via PRISM – to track hundreds of millions of phone calls made within the US
- The program only grabs metadata, it doesn’t record or retain what is said
- It does tell the agencies who made the call and who they called
- The US government compelled one of the countries biggest telcos – Verizon – to hand over ALL phone data
- It’s speculated that other US telcos are under the same pressure
The second program is data harvesting, targeted at foreigners and based entirely online.
- NSA has direct access to major US company servers
- Techbehemoths offer-up a blanket denial, the denials are however qualified by unauthorised
- Under US law, the government is authorised to access any information not protected by constitutional rights, in it’s fight against terrorism
- Foreign nationals – any non-US citizen – are the target of PRISM
- There is NO restriction on what the PRISM program can view, when viewing a foreign nationals internet activity
So far, it seems that Twitter is the only major techbehemoth NOT involved in PRISM – GO FREE SPEECH – it’s unclear if Twitter has resisted or simply not been asked.
The flaw in PRISM seems to be: PRISMs aim is to gather data on terrorism, data that might help prevent an attack on the US or it’s interests. If your a terrorist currently within the confines of United States borders, your pretty safe, your protected by the US constitution…
Craig Timberg from the Washington Post says “Expanded Government surveillance was cast as a price of war in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 attacks – on the USA – …the war on terrorism is showing signs of ebbing, while the surveillance systems created to fight terrorism become more powerful.”
A point that is being echoed around the globe, indeed it’s the rest of the – outside the USA – worlds population that needs to be most concerned about this latest exposed surveillance system.
The US government – from top to bottom – has either denied any knowledge of PRISM, and or, outlined that it is NOT utilised on US citizens, or foreign nationals living on US soil – this is likely to change – and is solely aimed at curbing terror attacks on the US.
What is PRISM?
- Eavesdropping program used by US intelligence agencies
- Allegedly allows the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI direct access to servers to track an individual’s web presence
- Reports Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL, Skype and YouTube among those involved
- Data monitored could include search histories, emails, social media interactions, connection logs, audio and video
- Washington Post says PRISM program is the most significant contributor to US president Barack Obama’s daily briefings, accounting for one in seven intelligence reports
Check: The Washington Post’s PRISM Document Collection
The White House says strict controls are in place to ensure the program does not violate civil liberties.
“The top priority of the president of the United States is the national security of the United States. We need to make sure we have the tools we need to confront the threat posed by terrorists,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. ”The intelligence community is conducting court-authorised intelligence activities pursuant to public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress.”
“What we need to do is balance that priority with the need to protect civil liberties.” Mr Earnest added that president Barack Obama welcomed public debate on the issue.
Republican Mike Rogers from Michigan, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said the program was vitally important.
“I can tell you why this program is important: within the last few years this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that,” Mr Rogers said.
Leading members of Congress said the program had been going on for seven years.
Verizon has declined to comment. It remains unclear whether the practice extends to other carriers, although several security experts and a US official said that was likely.
The other big question is: …when they say access to our data, does that include all those documents, programs, pictures and videos we’ve stored in the cloud? Google Drive Dropbox Softplayer…
Privacy proponentss have blasted the order as unconstitutional government surveillance and called for a review of the program. The US Centre for Constitutional Rights says it believes it to be the broadest surveillance order issued in American history.
“The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about,” Senator Bernie Sanders said.
The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate the scope of the effort, which it labelled “alarming” and “unconstitutional”.
“It’s a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said. ”It is beyond Orwellian.”
The revelation also put a spotlight on the handling of intelligence and privacy issues by the Obama administration. Amid controversy over aggressive leak investigations, the Obama administration has promised journalists will not be prosecuted for publishing material leaked by government officials.
As part of two separate recent leak investigations the US Justice Department has seized the phone records of Associated Press journalists and electronically tracked a Fox news reporter’s movements during visits to the State Department.
However the US attorney general, Eric Holder, has moved to quell concerns.
“The department’s goal in investigating leak cases is to identify and prosecute government officials who jeopardize national security by violating their oaths not to target members of the press,” Mr Holder said.
The Justice Department under Barack Obama has pursued more government officials for leaking than any previous administration.
PRISM coded into Microsoft Silverlight? With 65 percent penetration, who’s watching what your watching!?
Bigend of Internet Deny Back Door Actions
Although the reports indicated the program had been sanctioned by the companies involved, several denied any knowledge of it. Google dismissed suggestions it had opened a “back door” for intelligence agencies.
“Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully,” the company said in a statement quoted by The Guardian.
“From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”
Facebook also said it did not provide any government agency with “direct access” to its servers.
“When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinise any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law,” Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan said in a statement.
Microsoft said it did not voluntarily participate in any government data collection, saying it only complied “with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.
Yahoo firmly stated that it did not provide the government with direct access to its servers, systems or network.
A spokesman for Apple said the company had “never heard of PRISM”.
“We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order,” spokesman Steve Dowling said.
The Guardian reported that Microsoft had been part of the program since 2007, with Apple the most recent addition in October 2012.
The program allowed the NSA to obtain communications at the source without having to make requests to service providers directly or to obtain individual court orders.
The Guardian reported that PRISM was the source for more than 2,000 intelligence reports each month. More than 24,000 reports were issued in 2012, a 27 per cent increase from 2011.
A total of 77,000 intelligence reports have cited PRISM since the program began six years ago, The Guardian report said :: Read the full article »»»»