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NSA Extorted Yahoo’s Compliance With PRISM With $250,000 Per Day Fine Threat

While many in the tech industry appear to have no trouble collaborating with those illegally spying on American citizens, it is instructive to see what happened to the companies that even put up mild resistance to the NSA’s mission of “collect it all.”

According to recently unsealed court documents the NSA threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day until they complied with the PRISM spying program aimed at collecting information from American citizens among others. Yahoo was forced to pursue a secret legal process when it opposed being forced to hand over users’ data to the government – a process it ultimately lost.

The PRISM surveillance data mining program includes Google, Microsoft, Apple, AOL, and (subsequently) Yahoo. The program was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and was lied about under oath to Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Yahoo took its case to the foreign intelligence surveillance court, also known as the Fisa court, which oversees requests for surveillance orders in national security investigations. The secretive Fisa court provides the legal authorities that underpin the US government’s controversial surveillance programs. Yahoo lost its case, and an appeal…

“Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team. The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the US government’s surveillance efforts. At one point, the US government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply,” wrote [Yahoo General Counsel Ron] Bell.

The blog post titled “Shedding Light on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): Court Findings from Our 2007-2008 Case” by Yahoo’s general counsel Ron Bell detailed the process Yahoo went through fighting the NSA in court. Though 1,500 pages from the case have been unsealed Yahoo is still fighting to have case records released from a lower court.

The Yahoo example offers yet more evidence that many people participating in the NSA surveillance programs understood the programs were legally dubious if not outright illegal.

CommunityThe Bullpen

NSA Extorted Yahoo’s Compliance With PRISM With $250,000 Per Day Fine Threat

While many in the tech industry appear to have no trouble collaborating with those illegally spying on American citizens, it is instructive to see what happened to the companies that even put up mild resistance to the NSA’s mission of “collect it all.”

According to recently unsealed court documents the NSA threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day until they complied with the PRISM spying program aimed at collecting information from American citizens among others. Yahoo was forced to pursue a secret legal process when it opposed being forced to hand over users’ data to the government – a process it ultimately lost.

The PRISM surveillance data mining program includes Google, Microsoft, Apple, AOL, and (subsequently) Yahoo. The program was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and was lied about under oath to Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Yahoo took its case to the foreign intelligence surveillance court, also known as the Fisa court, which oversees requests for surveillance orders in national security investigations. The secretive Fisa court provides the legal authorities that underpin the US government’s controversial surveillance programs. Yahoo lost its case, and an appeal…

“Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team. The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the US government’s surveillance efforts. At one point, the US government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply,” wrote [Yahoo General Counsel Ron] Bell.

The blog post titled “Shedding Light on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): Court Findings from Our 2007-2008 Case” by Yahoo’s general counsel Ron Bell detailed the process Yahoo went through fighting the NSA in court. Though 1,500 pages from the case have been unsealed Yahoo is still fighting to have case records released from a lower court.

The Yahoo example offers yet more evidence that many people participating in the NSA surveillance programs understood the programs were legally dubious if not outright illegal.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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