U.S. Government Gives First Concrete Details about PRISM While Arguing that the Program is Misunderstood

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This past week the internet has been a buzz with the news of an extensive U.S. Government run data collection operation known as PRISM. It was first revealed to the public when The Guardian released an article shedding light on a secret government order forcing Verizon Wireless to release all its call logs to the NSA. The scope of just how big this program actually is ended up being later revealed as a government run initiative by the name of PRISM that has access to more than just our call logs. There have been U.S. officials that have come out and voiced support and disdain for such a program but what seemed to be missing were the details into what this program actually entailed. However, that’s no longer the case as the U.S. Government released intricate details about what PRISM actually does and what the information collection entails. According to officials, the program “is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program,” but rather something more extensive. According to them:

“It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

According to the released statement the government doesn’t collect said information unilaterally but rather with very specific permission from the secret courts who oversee these requests as dictated by FISA. According to the fact sheet:

“The government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for Section 702 collection unless there is an appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States. We cannot target even foreign persons overseas without a valid foreign intelligence purpose.”

James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence released a statement defending the program while also suggesting that The Guardian and the Washington Post jumped the gun in their release of this information without understanding the full details of the program. He also went on to say that he couldn’t release the details of how the data is collected as it would give suspicious groups a “playbook” to avoid being detected. You can read the full statement below the break.

The uproar of how extensive this government initiative is has spurred an uproar on the internet, so much so in fact that even Google’s Larry Page weighed in. Even though this program as been around for years, we’re just seeing the implications of what being in an online world entails, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t only the beginning. Will we see more transparency or will we continue to see secret government programs designed only for “our safety” come to light here in the future? Only time will tell.

Official Statement Released by James R. Clapper:
Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe. In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context–including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government–to these effective tools.

In particular, the surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress. Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber attacks against the United States and its allies.

Our ability to discuss these activities is limited by our need to protect intelligence sources and methods. Disclosing information about the specific methods the government uses to collect communications can obviously give our enemies a “playbook” of how to avoid detection. Nonetheless, Section 702 has proven vital to keeping the nation and our allies safe. It continues to be one of our most important tools for the protection of the nation’s security.

However, there are significant misimpressions that have resulted from the recent articles. Not all the inaccuracies can be corrected without further revealing classified information. I have, however, declassified for release the attached details about the recent unauthorized disclosures in hope that it will help dispel some of the myths and add necessary context to what has been published

James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence

source: All Things D

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