The Washington Post and The Guardian have revealed a US government mass Internet surveillance program code-named "PRISM". They report that the NSA and the FBI have been tapping directly into the servers of nine US service providers, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL and Skype, and began this surveillance program at least seven years ago. See PRISM slides explaining the program.According to Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, Washington Post reporters:
Note how the PRISM symbol is in the shape of a key, the hidden meaning of the symbol implying that this program is the key to unlocking a vast data mining operation of the U.S. govenment. Edward Snowden who leaked this information originally has stated that this is just the TIP of the iceberg of what the U.S. government is doing through its alphabet spy agencies to spy on innocent Americans. Also note what a prism does.
A prism is a piece of glass or other transparent material cut with precise angles and plane faces. Prisms are useful for analyzing and refracting light (see refraction). A triangular prism can separate white light into its constituent colours by refracting each different wavelength of light by a different amount. The PRISM name and symbol no doubt was picked for a reason. The name PRISM then implies that the program is transparent, unkown by its target and yet powerful enough to sift through vast amounts of monitored electronic communications to separate out individuals much as a real prism separates out various wavelengths of white light. Ingenious?, No. Diabolical.
PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance(FISA) Court forced the president to look for new authority.According to Glen Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of the London Guardian newspaper:
Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection.(The U.S. government knows that the carrot approach works better than the stick!) PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data 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.
The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.
It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.
Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – 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.
Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.
In a statement, Google said: "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."
Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. "If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said.
An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of Prism.
The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.
The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.
Some of the world's largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.
It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.
Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.
The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.
Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users' communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies' servers. The NSA document notes the operations have "assistance of communications providers in the US".
The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.
When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA's inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies' servers.
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.
The Prism program allows the NSA, the world's largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a "report". According to the NSA, "over 2,000 Prism-based reports" are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.
In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.
"It's shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this," he said. "The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.
"This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That's profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation."
The well known Jim Marrs has this to say regarding the Edward Snowden NSA PRISM revelations.
In an interview with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden explained:(see a video of the actual interview above)
The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting.As I have always stated: Its all about power and control. Controlling the people of the United States. Why has the DHS ordered millions of rounds of ammunition? Why are police departments all over the country applying for and obtaining surveillance drones? What are they preparing for? It's obvious. War with the American people.
If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records [even] credit cards.
I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.
Snowden is putting everything he treasures at risk: His parents work for the government and he has a girlfriend whom he admits he might not be seeing again for a long time. He was making $200,000 a year and for a while, at least, he felt he had a stable career and a pleasant, enjoyable, and interesting life. But that appears to be over. Said Snowden:
I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.
For instance, at his level of security clearance, he could access the entire data set of records for any individual on the planet as long as he had an internet connection. He explained:
Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of those sensor networks and the authority that that analyst is empowered with.
Not all analysts have the power to target anything. But I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email….
Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. The storage capability of these systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
What is Edward Snowden's greatest fear? It is the same concern that I have as an American citizen.
The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures, they'll know the lengths that government is going to to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won't be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests. And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it's only going to get worse. Until eventually there will be a time where policies will change because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. They'll say that... because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyrannyA one world system and government that will crush any opposition to it's goals including taking a 'mark' to buy or sell in the future.