In a devastating report, the Washington Post says that a secret government program, code-named PRISM, has been spying on millions of American's by tapping into 9 US Internet companies. Here's what you need to know.
In another report from NBC Nightly News, under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every single phone call made in the US. This story is developing so stay tuned.
NBC News has learned that under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S.
— NBC Nightly News (@nbcnightlynews) June 6, 2013
1. The NSA and FBI Have Been Monitoring 9 US Internet Companies
According to the Washington Post, who managed to obtain private documents, the NSA and FBI have been tapping into the internal servers of 9 major US Internet companies. The aforementioned government agencies have been receiving audio, video, photos, emails, documents, and connection logs that essentially lets the NSA and FBI track an individual's location and contacts over a period of time.
2. PRISM Was Created in 2007
This is the first time PRISM has been announced publicly. It was officially established in 2007, and experienced "exponential growth" in the following six years, even though both the Obama and Bush administrations have been criticized heavily for invading on the civil liberties on the American people. It was so secret, in fact, that the members of Congress that knew about the program couldn't speak about it at all, even though there was multiple debates on the ever-graying line between government surveillance and the privacy of Americans.
3. This Comes A Day After The NSA/Verizon Scandal
PRISM's disclosure comes soon after reports of another controversial surveillance order. Reports have surged that the National Security Agency has been coercing Verizon into handing information of all phone calls from Verizon's 116 million customers since 2006. The President has justified the act saying that it is in an important tool int he war against terrorism
4. Obama Supports PRISM, But Not Bush's Warrantless Surveillance
PRISM resembles a similar operation issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11. The surveillance was described as both "controversial" as well as "warrantless." Although Obama originally critisized the program, he presided over its "exponential growth."
5. Here are a List of the Companies That Worked With PRISM
Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple have been involved in the program for years. Dropbox isn't an official member yet, but they're rumored to be joining soon. As you can see from the chart above from, the first member to join was Microsoft, on 9/11/2007. Yahoo soon follow, joining in February 2008. Google, Facebook, and PalTalk all joined in 2009, while Youtube was the only company joining PRISM in 2010. Skype and AOL joined in 2011, and Apple joined finally in 2012. According to the Washington Post, Apple resisted joining the program for more than five years until they joined in 2012. Twitter, interestingly, isn't listed as a member. The Washington Post notes that Twitter values user data tremendously, which may be a reason the company isn't listed as a member.
According to CNBC, Apple has denied ever hearing of the program. We've reached out to Microsoft and Apple, and will update the post when they get back to us.
Here's what a Google spokesperson said about the allegations regarding PRISM:
"Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'back door' for the government to access private user data."
After speaking with Google, we can determine that the company denies knowing or participating in PRISM.