(NaturalNews) As bad as it is that the National Security Agency has been caught red-handed spying wholesale on American citizens' private electronic communications, it is even worse knowing that American taxpayers paid for the "privilege" of having their Fourth Amendment rights shredded.
According to Britain's Guardian, the very newspaper that broke the NSA spy scandal and whose reporter, Glenn Greenwald, should be awarded multiple Pulitzers, Internet giants Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Facebook, among others, were paid millions of dollars by NSA to cover compliance costs associated with implementing the agency's vaunted "Prism" spy program - even after a federal court ruled the spying unconstitutional.
From taxpayers, to the NSA, to the tech companies...
From the Guardian:
The technology companies...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 declassified [August 21] by the Obama administration, found that the NSA's inability to separate purely domestic communications from foreign traffic violated the Fourth Amendment.
The court's ruling did not directly take aim at the Prism program, the paper said. But documents provided to The Guardian by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, now in Russia after being granted temporary political asylum, detail problems created for the agency, as well as efforts aimed at making operations compliant with the law and the Constitution.
"The material provides the first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA," the paper reported.
The role of the FISA court is to sign off on annual "certifications" that provide the framework with which the NSA conducts its surveillance operations. The court doesn't actually oversee the agency as it conducts those operations, however.
In the aftermath of the court's finding that NSA operations had been illegally targeting Americans, the certifications were only signed on a temporary basis while the agency supposedly worked on ways to solve processes that were deemed unconstitutional.
Per the Guardian:
An NSA newsletter entry, 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," it says.
During his interview with Guardian reporter Greenwald, Snowden described the NSA's Special Source Operations as the agency's "crown jewel," which handles all surveillance programs like Prism which must rely on "corporate partnerships" with telecoms and Internet companies in order to data mine users' communications.
Discovering that taxpayers' money was used to cover compliance costs for telecoms raises new questions about the relationship between such firms and the NSA, as well as the veracity of claims by the telecoms that user privacy is paramount and well-protected.
An earlier, undated newsletter said all Prism providers were given new certifications within days of the FISA court's ruling. "All Prism providers, except Yahoo and Google, were successfully transitioned to the new certifications. We expect Yahoo and Google to complete transitioning by Friday 6 October," it said.
Thousands of times per year
Most of the companies involved did not even have the courage to respond to The Guardian's questions about taking taxpayer funding to allow them, in turn, to be spied upon. However, one of them, a spokesperson from Yahoo!, actually tried to justify its illegal and unconstitutional actions by citing federal law.
"Federal law requires the U.S. 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," said the spokesperson, who was not named.
As to the NSA's actions, a recent Washington Post story revealed that the agency violated your rights "thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008."