The revelation the federal government was stockpiling the record of every Verizon phone call made was simply the tip of the iceberg. The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple) via a computer program called PRISM. The program extracts audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document which was described in both the Washington Post and the Guardian in Britain. In other words, your federal government now has the largest collection of internet porn (and personal information) in the entire world.
As described by the Guardian the document is a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation PRISM is classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers. But each of the service providers has denied any knowledge of the program.
The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organization, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection set the program in motion. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
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The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.
The presentation reported on by both papers was created less than two months ago (Dated April 2013) and described the new intelligence gathering resource as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year.
“NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.
What makes this PRISM information gathering program most frightening is the NSA is supposed to be collecting foreign intelligence, but via these internet providers it is mining the digital activity on hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.
This PRISM program along with the wire-taps revealed yesterday, the DOJ bugging the working press etc., give even the calmest observer the dreadful feeling that the most free country in the world is beginning to act like a police state–the patriot act must be reigned in before its to late.
One related note, the leaking of secret information coming so fast one after the other is unusual (yesterday and today). Are these leaks coming from the American intelligence community resentful of an administration that threw them under the bus in the aftermath of Benghazi?