A lawyer representing the National Security Agency at a Wednesday hearing revealed tech companies were fully aware of the agency’s widespread Internet surveillance programs, contradicting outraged statements that have echoed across Silicon Valley since Edward Snowden’s first leaks came to light.
While testifying before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), NSA general counsel Rajesh De was asked directly whether or not tech giants were aware of or assisted with the agency’s PRISM program, which accessed vast amounts of private, detailed Internet data from the users of companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
“Yes,” De replied. “PRISM is just an internal government term that as a result of the leaks, became a public term.”
“So [tech companies] know that their data is being obtained?” PCLOB’s James Dempsey asked in a follow-up question.
“They would have received legal process in order to assist the government.” De said.
De’s assertion directly counters Silicon Valley rhetoric denying any knowledge or involvement with PRISM, despite what former agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leaked documents detailing the program implied. Companies followed up their denial campaign in the months since with numerous joint letters to Congress and the White House criticizing the programs and calling for change.
Just last week Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg posted a public denouncement of the government’s digital surveillance practices, and claimed he had personally called President Barack Obama to express his frustration.
In a stated effort to increase transparency and regain public trust, companies have begun publishing “transparency reports” with information about the number and types of federal subpoenas requesting user information they receive annually.