The UK’s The Guardian, the same newspaper that originally broke the Edward Snowden story, is reporting today that the NSA paid millions of dollars to the major internet companies involved in parts of the Prism program that were later deemed to be illegal a federal judge. The report they published also included classified documents that were passed to them, all but proving their contention.
NSA paid millions of dollars to the major internet companies
The technology companies, which the NSA paid included Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), incurred the costs to meet new certification demands in the wake of the ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court.
The October 2011 judgment, which was made public by the Obama Administration found that the NSA’s inability to separate domestic communications from foreign traffic violated the fourth amendment and insisted that it was stopped until the NSA could better discern between the two.
An NSA newsletter entry (published today and marked top secret) and dated December 2012, discloses the huge costs this entailed. “Last year’s problems resulted in multiple extensions to the certifications’ expiration dates which cost millions of dollars for Prism providers to implement each successive extension – costs covered by Special Source Operations,”
As a result the NSA were compelled to pay these companies for the money spent for each of these extensions.
The relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA
The disclosure that taxpayers’ money was used to cover the companies’ compliance costs raises new questions over the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA. The companies involved have, for the most part, have denied knowing any of this and insisted that they only hand over user data in response to specific legal requests from the authorities. Today’s report certainly contradicts that claim.
Following this revelation, the Guardian contacted each of these companies asking about the reimbursement they received and the amount the of money each spent on these certifications. Additionally, they were asked if the NSA payed them for any other participation in Prism.
A Yahoo spokesperson said: “Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law.”
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) refused to answer any specific questions but said, “We await the US government’s response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today.”
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) refused to answer on the record.
The Guardian also reached out to the White House and the NSA. Neither gave a comment but the latter asked that a name be redacted in a document published today.
If the report is to be believed it’s quite clear these tech companies denials are nothing more than lies.