Classified information obtained by the Washington Post and The Guardian has revealed a massive, warrantless online surveillance system in use by a US military intelligence agency, giving access to Americans’ search history, emails, live chats and more.
The 41-page PowerPoint presentation, which has been verified by both papers and published almost concurrently on Thursday evening, outlines details of a previously undisclosed program known as PRISM, which allows the fabled military intelligence agency to harvest massive amounts of data on everything from electronic correspondence to file transfers.
The slides were meant to be declassified in 2036.
According to the documents, the program currently boasts access to some of the largest Internet companies in the world, with Microsoft thought to be the first corporation to sign onto the surveillance arrangement in 2007.
That company’s participation was followed by Yahoo in 2008, Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009, YouTube in 2010, Skype and AOL in 2011, and Apple joining in 2012. Meanwhile, cloud storage company Dropbox is described as “coming soon.”
With the participation of those companies, PRISM and thereby Washington intelligence workers have access to the bulk of Americans’ email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype) chats, file transfers, social networking details and more.
Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook all made public statements on Thursday that they either had never heard of, or have not complied with PRISM by giving the program direct access to their servers.
“From time to time, people allege that we have created a govt. ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’,” a Google representative told CNBC.
“We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers,” responded Apple.
“We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers,” said the company’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan in a statement.
In the disclosed documents, the NSA lauds PRISM program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA.”
Speaking on condition of anonimity, a senior administration official told Reuters on Thursday that the surveillance program only targeted non-US persons outside of the country.
“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate,” said the official.
“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,” he added.
The presentation, which is described as internal and intended for senior analysts within the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, describes PRISM as the most prolific contribution to President Obama’s Daily Brief – that key report cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles in 2012.
According to the Washington Post, PRISM’s raw material accounts for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.
The presentation files further boast of “strong growth” in PRISM’s reach, noting the number of obtained online communications increased by 248% in 2012 for Skype alone with “exponential growth in Skype reporting.” “Looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype,” boasts the report.
Requests made via PRISM by US intelligence in 2012 are quoted as having increased by 131% for Facebook data, and by 63% for Google.
Watch Video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ss_3EtphhxU
- Disclosed classified docs show vast, real-time, warrantless NSA online surveillance (rinf.com)
- Disclosed classified docs show vast, real-time, warrantless NSA online surveillance (rt.com)
- Secret program gives NSA, FBI backdoor access to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft data (theverge.com)
- Microsoft on its reported involvement in U.S. intelligence mining program PRISM (blogs.seattletimes.com)