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NSA Paid Google, Microsoft, Others Millions for PRISM Aid

By - Source: The Guardian | B 14 comments

New documents link the NSA to Google, Facebook, Tahoo and others on a financial level.

Last week the Washington Post received documents showing that the NSA violated privacy rules around 3,000 times in a twelve month period. Now there are newly declassified documents showing that the NSA actually paid out millions to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook to cover their expenses while aiding in the PRISM surveillance project. This is the first piece of material to show a financial connection between the government and the tech companies.

On Wednesday the Obama administration declassified an October 2011 judgment by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court that found the NSA's inability to separate domestic communications from foreign traffic violated the Fourth Amendment. This led to a new certification process for the technology companies involved in the PRISM surveillance, and an added compliance cost that, by law, must be funded by the taxpayer.

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According to The Guardian, the NSA requires the FISA court to sign annual "certifications" that provide the legal foundation for surveillance. But after the ruling, the court only renewed them on a temporary basis as the NSA cleaned up the processes that the court found illegal. This "problem" led to huge costs for PRISM providers, as the multiple extensions to the certificates' expiration dates meant implementing each successive extension, which in turn meant time and money.

The tech companies were paid by Special Source Operations which handles all surveillance programs that rely on "corporate partnerships" with telecoms and internet providers for accessing communications data. Because the SSO is part of the government, taxpayers essentially paid Microsoft, Google and whatnot to be compliant with the government that in turn snoops on the taxpayer.

What's interesting here is that this is the first evidence of the government paying tech companies, yet these very tech companies have repeatedly denied all knowledge of the PRISM program, and insist that they only hand over user data when legal requests are made by the proper authorities. Even one of the obtained newsletters states that immediately after the FISA court ruling, the tech companies save for Yahoo and Google had successfully transitioned to new certifications. The remaining two were expected to complete their transitioning in October 2011.

The Guardian reached out to these companies for a response to the new material. Yahoo said that "federal law requires the US 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." Facebook merely stated that it had "never received any compensation in connection with responding to a government data request".

As for Google, the company denies joining PRISM or any other surveillance program. "We await the US government's response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today," Google said.

Microsoft declined to comment, as did the NSA and The White House.

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Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    xkm1948 , August 23, 2013 6:18 PM
    US tax payers is paying the government to spy on themselves. Ain't it lovely.
Other Comments
  • 19 Hide
    xkm1948 , August 23, 2013 6:18 PM
    US tax payers is paying the government to spy on themselves. Ain't it lovely.
  • 4 Hide
    RedPanda98 , August 23, 2013 6:20 PM
    Of course "Tahoo" is involved with NSA.
  • Display all 14 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    knightmike , August 23, 2013 6:43 PM
    Of course they were paid for their trouble. They would have taken the NSA to court if they weren't.
  • 3 Hide
    fonzy , August 23, 2013 6:47 PM
    It's pretty obvious this shit won't stop until people are arrested and sent to prison.... Which won't happen. The only people the government is going after are the people who are coming forward telling Americans what there doing behind their backs.
  • 9 Hide
    kinggraves , August 23, 2013 7:12 PM
    Take them to court, who are you going to take to court, the entirety of Congress and the NSA? Always expecting other people to fight your battles for you. It isn't going to stop until Americans grow some spine and realize that protests are not just for people in the middle east. They aren't just day long sit ins downtown while you chat with some hippies about making granola. People around the world are losing their lives to overthrow governments they don't believe in and in the meantime people in the US go "What, a protest? Am I going to have to miss work for that?"
  • -1 Hide
    adgjlsfhk , August 23, 2013 7:52 PM
    kinggraves, while I agree about the impossibility of jail, the fact that there are not protests only means that people would rather have stability and surveillance than the instability caused by mass protests. Also if this is the course of action you are recommending, just remember that the estimated number of casualties is now over 100,000, with no stability and Egypt has recently had a military coup, is in the midst of more protests. I would propose that is instead the job of Americans to proxy services and web encryption to protect themselves from clear government overreach.
  • -6 Hide
    stingstang , August 23, 2013 8:37 PM
    I....am so damn sick of hearing reports about the NSA spying on people. If it's such a big god damn deal to you (writers of TH) then revolt. Start a freaking revolution. Posting article after article AFTER ARTICLE about the same damn thing every day is so freaking annoying! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!
  • 1 Hide
    the1kingbob , August 23, 2013 8:50 PM
    Wasn't it already clear that tax dollars paid for this? We really need a smoking gun to prove something that should have been easily understood from the get go? If the government does ANYTHING it is with tax dollars. People do realize that all communication companies will turn over information (given court approval, which IS the problem here... NOT the money) if requested legally and these companies charge a fee to do so as stated by Yahoo. This isn't new, they have been doing this same process for years with the RIAA. Obviously, the problem is the mistakes the government has made and invading people privacy with no legal oversight or justification.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , August 23, 2013 11:50 PM
    Taxpayers essentially paid companies be compliant with the government that in turn snoops on the taxpayer.

    Not entirely true, the NSA spies on the whole world, even its allies - the US taxpayer is just part of the larger operation
  • 0 Hide
    Nakal , August 24, 2013 7:32 AM
    It is sad the US Government (Democrats, Republicans, other parties, and indipendents) blatantly ignore the 4th Amendment :( 

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • 0 Hide
    Nakal , August 24, 2013 7:34 AM
    Damn lack of an edit mode:

    I"Independents"

  • 0 Hide
    Nakal , August 24, 2013 7:35 AM
    Damn lack of an edit mode:

    I"Independents"

  • 0 Hide
    Chairman Ray , August 26, 2013 12:19 AM
    This is an example of poor journalism. Reading the title may make readers think that the NSA paid the corporations money in return for their cooperation. The article states that the NSA just paid for the PRISM expenditures, which is just normal operation, and doesn't warrant an article at all. If the NSA didn't even cover the costs of their own program, then we got a problem.
  • 0 Hide
    ddpruitt , August 26, 2013 6:05 AM
    Who's writing these articles? Tom's or the Guardian.

    This is nearly the exact same wording as used on the Guardian, and they're known for making it more sensationalist than it is.

    THE NSA DID NOT PAY THESE COMPANIES TO SPY. The NSA only reimbursed for costs related to legal warrants. If people payed more attention to what happened between the lines than getting hooked by false headlines then we'd be better off.
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