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Google, Yahoo and other tech companies provided 'full assistance' to NSA spying on Americans, says agency lawyer

Big brother

(NaturalNews) A senior lawyer for the National Security Agency(NSA) recently admitted that his employer essentially gets help from some top media and technology companies to violate the Fourth Amendment protections of millions of Americans.

The lawyer, Rajesh De, who is the general counsel for the NSA, said recently that U.S. tech firms were completely aware of the agency's surveillance and widespread data collection, as reported by Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

Tech companies had full knowledge of NSA Internet data collection program

De said that all communications content and associated metadata scooped up by the agency under a 2008 law governing (and permitting) such surveillance took place with the full knowledge of the tech companies. He said that is true both for "Prism," an Internet-based data collection program, and the "upstream" collection of all communications moving online.

As The Guardian further reported:

Asked during a [recent] hearing of the U.S. government's institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the FISA Amendments Act, occurred with the "full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained," De replied: "Yes."

The story regarding the Prism program was broken in June by The Guardian and The Washington Post, based on documents leaked to them by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. At the time nearly all of the tech companies who were listed as taking part in the program - Yahoo, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL - cried foul and claimed they had no knowledge about the NSA's massive surveillance or giving the agency access to customers' data. Indeed some of the companies, including Apple, claimed they had never even heard of the term Prism, The Guardian reported.

'Government is damaging our future'

But, as De explained, "Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term. Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive."

Following the hearing De said that Internet service providers are also aware of the surveillance and even receive legal directives regarding the spy agency's collection of communications data - not directly from the companies themselves but rather across the Internet, under the authority of Section 702 of the Act.

Following the initial disclosure in the press about the existence of Prism, there was an outcry in technology circles as companies launched in-depth public relations efforts aimed at calming their customers and reassure them of their privacy and data security. In addition, the companies were able to lobby the Obama administration successfully to give them more leeway in disclosing both the volume and type of data requests issued them by the federal government.

In recent days the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said he phoned Obama to voice his concerns about "the damage the government is creating for all our future." The Guardian reported that tech companies did not respond to De's revelations.

The paper further reported:

It is unclear what sort of legal process the government serves on a company to compel communications content and metadata access under Prism or through upstream collection. Documents leaked from Snowden indicate that the NSA possesses unmediated access to the company data.

Pyrrhic victory against the Obama regime

The ultrasecret FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court ostensibly oversees spy agency and federal law enforcement agency surveillance requests, but critics of the process say the court is essentially a rubber stamp.

Still, under concessions won from the Obama administration, tech companies can now discloses the range of FISA-related court orders they receive, in bands of one thousand, and that would presumably include any court orders issued under the authority of Section 702.

"Passed in 2008, Section 702 retroactively gave cover of law to a post-9/11 effort permitting the NSA to collect phone, email, internet and other communications content when one party to the communication is reasonably believed to be a non-American outside the United States," The Guardian reported.

NSA reportedly stores all data received via Prism for five years and communications that are scooped directly from the Internet for two.





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