The public is getting a broader glimpse at the still-secretive world of government data collection
Yahoo said Thursday it won release of 1,500 pages of documents filed in a secretive surveillance court. It said the documents stem from an unsuccessful lawsuit it brought in 2008 challenging the government’s right to demand user information.
“At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”
— Ron Bell, Yahoo’s lawyer
The company won a victory last year when portions of previously-closed documents were ordered public. As it noted Thursday, disclosures from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are “extremely rare.”
The documents are a public relations victory for Yahoo: They show it resisting orders to comply with the surveillance programs.
“Yahoo has not complied with the directives because of concerns that the directives require Yahoo to assist in conducting warrantless surveillance that is likely to capture private communications of United States citizens located in the U.S. and abroad,” Yahoo wrote in a legal document, arguing the orders violated “the privacy of U.S. citizens.”
The government put great pressure on Yahoo to comply with its order, the company said. Read the rest of this entry »
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the other tech titans have had to fight for their lives against their own government. An exclusive look inside their year from hell—and why the Internet will never be the same.
Christoph Niemann writes: On June 6, 2013, Washington Post reporters called the communications departments of Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and other Internet companies. The day before, a report in the British newspaper The Guardian had shocked Americans with evidence that the telecommunications giant Verizon had voluntarily handed a database of every call made on its network to the National Security Agency. The piece was by reporter Glenn Greenwald, and the information came from Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old IT consultant who had left the US with hundreds of thousands of documents detailing the NSA’s secret procedures.
Greenwald was the first but not the only journalist that Snowden reached out to. The Post’s Barton Gellman had also connected with him. Now, collaborating with documentary filmmaker and Snowden confidante Laura Poitras, he was going to extend the story to Silicon Valley. Gellman wanted to be the first to expose a top-secret NSA program called Prism. Snowden’s files indicated that some of the biggest companies on the web had granted the NSA and FBI direct access to their servers, giving the agencies the ability to grab a person’s audio, video, photos, emails, and documents. The government urged Gellman not to identify the firms involved, but Gellman thought it was important. “Naming those companies is what would make it real to Americans,” he says. Now a team of Post reporters was reaching out to those companies for comment.
Alex Tabarrok wonders: Did Obama spy on Mitt Romney? As recently as a few weeks ago if anyone had asked me that question I would have consigned them to a right (or left) wing loony bin. Today, the only loonies are those who think the question unreasonable. Indeed, in one sense the answer is clearly yes. Do I think Obama ordered the NSA to spy on Romney for political gain? No. Some people claim that President Obama didn’t even know about the full extent of NSA spying. Indeed, I imagine that President Obama was almost as surprised as the rest of us when he first discovered that we live in a mass surveillance state in which billions of emails, phone calls, facebook metadata and other data are being collected.
The answer is yes, however, if we mean did the NSA spy on political candidates like Mitt Romney. Did Mitt Romney ever speak with Angela Merkel, whose phone the NSA bugged, or any one of the dozens of her advisers that the NSA was also bugging? Did Romney exchange emails with Mexican President Felipe Calderon? Were any of Romney’s emails, photos, texts or other metadata hoovered up by the NSA’s break-in to the Google and Yahoo communications links? Almost certainly the answer is yes. Read the rest of this entry »
Yahoo’s news and community services have shut down in China, following the closure of its email service last month.
The Yahoo China home page now redirects users to a site run by Alibaba, which manages Yahoo’s Chinese operation.
In a farewell message which appears before the redirect, the firm says it is “adjusting its operations strategy”.
China is increasingly becoming a real-life Maximum Overdrive with machines and items such as mobile phones, toilets, bus windows, buses, cans of cola, and cigarettes have all lashed out at their fleshy masters.
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and Youtube will be named in the suit, attorney says
Former Justice Department prosecutor Larry Klayman amended an existing lawsuit against Verizon and a slew of Obama administration officials Monday to make it the first class-action lawsuit in response to the publication of a secret court order instructing Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of American customers on an “ongoing, daily basis.”
Klayman told U.S. News he will file a second class-action lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia targeting government officials and each of the nine companies listed in a leaked National Security Agency slideshow as participants in the government’s PRISM program.
According to the slideshow, the PRISM program allows government agents direct, real-time access to the servers of nine major tech companies, including AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube.
U.S. News did not seek comment from the companies, all of which have denied any knowledge of or participation in the PRISM program.
Klayman said he hopes the two lawsuits will be considered jointly as companion cases.
The class-action lawsuit against Verizon says the defendants violated customers’ “reasonable expectation of privacy, free speech and association, right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and due process rights…”
MORE via US News and World Report
- Former U.S. Prosecutor Sues Obama and NSA over PRISM Scandal (torrentfreak.com)
- PRISM Yields First Lawsuit (youviewed.com)
- Class-Action Suit Filed Over NSA Phone-Snooping (consumerist.com)
- Former U.S. Prosecutor Sues Obama and NSA over PRISM Scandal (philosophers-stone.co.uk)
- Philadelphia Couple Join Class-Action Lawsuit Against NSA’s Verizon Spying (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- Klayman expands Obama- NSA-Verizon suit into class action (freedomwatchusa.org)
- Lawsuit filed over NSA phone spying program (infoworld.com)
- Lawsuit filed over NSA phone spying program (computerworld.co.nz)
- Lawsuit filed over NSA phone spying program (computerworld.com)
The common thread running through his scandals is an abuse of power
“How ironic is that? We wanted a president that listens to all Americans — now we have one.” That was Jay Leno’s take on the Obama administration’s expanding NSA spying scandal, which has gone beyond Verizon phone records to include Google, Facebook, Yahoo and just about all the other major tech companies except, apparently, for Twitter.
The NSA spying scandal goes deep, and the Obama administration’s only upside is that the furor over its poking into Americans’ private business on a wholesale basis will distract people from the furor over the use of the IRS and other federal agencies to target political enemies — and even donors to Republican causes — and the furor over the Benghazi screwup and subsequent lies (scapegoated filmmaker Nakoula is still in jail), the furor over the “Fast And Furious” gunrunning scandal that left literally scores of Mexicans dead, the scandal over the DOJ’s poking into phone records of journalists (and their parents), HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ shakedown of companies she regulates for “donations” to pay for ObamaCare implementation that Congress has refused to fund, the Pigford scandal where the Treasury Department’s “Judgment Fund” appears to have been raided for political purposes — well, it’s getting to where you need a scorecard to keep up.
But, in fact, there’s a common theme in all of these scandals: Abuse of power. And, what’s more, that abuse-of-power theme is what makes the NSA snooping story bigger than it otherwise would be. It all comes down to trust.
The justification for giving the government a lot of snooping power hangs on two key arguments: That snooping will make us safer and that the snooping power won’t be abused.
Has it made us safer? Anonymous government sources quoted in news reports say yes, but we know that all that snooping didn’t catch the Tsarnaev brothers before they bombed the Boston Marathon — even though they made extensive use of email and the Internet, and even though Russian security officials had warned us that they were a threat. The snooping didn’t catch Major Nidal Hasan before he perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre, though he should have been spotted easily enough. It didn’t, apparently, warn us of the Benghazi attacks — though perhaps it explains how administration flacks were able to find and scapegoat a YouTube filmmaker so quickly . But in terms of keeping us safe, the snooping doesn’t look so great.
As for abuse, well, is it plausible to believe that a government that would abuse the powers of the IRS to attack political enemies, go after journalists who publish unflattering material or scapegoat a filmmaker in the hopes of providing political cover to an election-season claim that al-Qaeda was finished would have any qualms about misusing the massive power of government-run snooping and Big Data? What we’ve seen here is a pattern of abuse. There’s little reason to think that pattern will change, absent a change of administration — and, quite possibly, not even then. Sooner or later, power granted tends to become power abused. Then there’s the risk that information gathered might leak, of course, as recent events demonstrate.
Most Americans generally think that politicians are untrustworthy. So why trust them with so much power? The evidence to date strongly suggests that they aren’t worthy of it.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is professor of law at the University of Tennessee. He blogs at InstaPundit.com.