The National Security Agency and FBI have been engaging in a highly classified program that mines data from leading U.S. internet companies, according to a bombshell report in The Washington Post Thursday night.
The program is code-named PRISM, and the Post reports that it was established in 2007. According to the report, the nine companies that “participate knowingly” in the program are Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.
The NSA and FBI tap directly into the central servers of the companies, obtaining audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs that “enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time,” according to the Post.
The Obama administration defended the practice late Thursday night. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called it responsible for some of the “most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect.” He said it is subject to strict oversight and that it does not “intentionally” target any U.S. citizen.
Apple issued a denial shortly after the Post report, saying it had never heard of PRISM and that government agencies cannot access its servers without a court order.
Facebook denied providing government organizations with direct access to its servers. Microsoft and Google also issued denials.
We’ll provide an update on these contradictory claims when available.
The program was not disclosed publicly, and is only being disclosed now after a whistleblower revealed the program to the Post because of “horror” at its capabilities.
“They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” said the whistleblower, described as a career intelligence officer, in a truly harrowing quote.
The Washington Post’s report comes less than 24 hours after revelations of the NSA’s collection of data from millions of Americans’ phone records. The Obama administration and members of both parties of Congress defended that practice, which they acknowledged has been going on for seven years.