From Renegade Mill
Jump to navigation Jump to search

PRISM Project Surveillance Introduction Edward Snowden is one of the most famous whistle-blowers of our times. He is the man who made us aware of the many surveillance programs and other activities clouded in the secrecy of the U.S government. He is a former intelligence officer so there is a lot he knows about the secrets that are done and kept by the government. He has gathered so many documents from the U.S intelligence agencies like the NSA which show the depth and width of government surveillance programs that were established in 2007. Also, the documents reveal the role of corporations, governments of other countries and lawmakers in advancing and legitimization the surveillance programs. Some of the programs are very shocking, but today, however, we will only look at the PRISM project surveillance program. What is PRISM Project Surveillance Program? PRISM project surveillance program is a massive surveillance program conducted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). PRISM is the code name for the surveillance program. The program utilizes plenty of data that is collected by the NSA from various US internet companies, which is analysed for patterns of terrorists or other potential criminal activity. PRISM has always been clouded in secrecy since its creation in 2007. However, it came to the limelight just recently as a result of its suspected use of data obtained from the server of major internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, AOL and YouTube. The program makes demands to these internet companies to collect data from them which may include emails, documents, chats, photographs and connection log of users. NSA uses PRISM request to target encrypted communications when they travel across the intent backbone, to get stored data that telecommunication filtering systems discarded earlier and to get data that can be easily handled among many other things. This program is operated under the supervision of the U.S Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC). Edward Snowden, who leaked this program warned that the depth of data collection was far greater than the pubic knew and included what he termed as dangerous and criminal activities. The disclosures about this program were published by the Guardian and the Washington Post in 2013. Some documents show the financial arrangements between the NSA’s Special Operations division (SSO) and PRISM partner which runs in the millions of dollars. According to the documents, PRISM is the main source of raw intelligence used by the NSA to perform analyses. The information about this program, as a matter of fact, was leaked a day after the revelation that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court had been ordering a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, a telecommunications company, to turn over to the NSA logs tracking all of its customer’s telephone calls. There are several aspects of the stories published in the Guardian and Washington Post that the U.S government officials have rejected. This was expected anyways. The same officials have defended the program stating that it cannot be used on domestic targets without a warrant. They further claim that it has helped prevent acts of terrorism. The Disclosure of PRISM Classified documents of PRISM were leaked to journalists of the Guardian and The Washington Post by Edward Snowden while he was an NSA contractor. The documents were published by the journalists and that’s how the program was brought to light. The leaked classified documents included several PowerPoint slides, whereby a number of them were published in the news articles. The documents showed several technology companies which cooperate with the PRISM program. The companies are tech giants including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, YouTube, AOL, Skype and Apple. The documents showed that 98 percent of the program production is based on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. The PowerPoint slides demonstrated that much of the world’s electronic communications pass through the U.S. this could be true because much of the world’s internet infrastructure is based in the United States and that electronic communications data tend to go use the least expensive route instead of the most physically direct route. Therefore, NSA has opportunities to intercept the communications of foreign targets as their electronic data pass through the United States. Moreover, subsequent documents provided by Snowden showed that government agencies such as the United Kingdom’s GCHQ also participated in the mass interception and tracking of internet and communications data. There are allegations that the NSA got involved with dangerous and criminal activity by hacking civilian infrastructure networks in other countries such as universities, hospitals and private businesses. How Was PRISM Created? According to the Washington Post, The Protect America Act of 2007 led to the creation of a secret NSA program referred to as US-984XN, which is also known as PRISM. This program is said to have come after the prior program called the Terrorist Surveillance Program which was implemented in the years following 9/11 attacks under George W Bush Administration. This program was widely criticised as illegal, mainly because it did not include warrants obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. PRISM was indeed authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This program was enabled by several bodies like the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 which immunizes private companies from legal action is they cooperate with U.S government intelligence collection. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 authorizes intelligence agencies to monitor the phone, email and other communications of U.S citizens for a week without having a warrant. The PRISM program is used to collect internet communications only and not telephone conversations. The communications are collected in a targeted manner, such those that are to or from specific selectors such email addresses. The collection process is done by the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU) of the FBI. Collection of Two Kinds of Data PRISM program collects two kinds of data: Metadata and Content. Both of which may be searched for both U.S and non-U.S person identifiers. Metadata is the sensitive by-product of communications such as phone records that disclose participants, times and durations of calls. PRISM collects contents of emails, chats, cloud-stored files, VoIP calls and much more. Metadata can reveal as much information of the communication as the content. This data includes information such as email logs, web search histories and IP addresses. Further, metadata is not well-protected like content in the US. Snowden provided a leaked court order which showed that Verizon is handing over the call records and telephony metadata of all its customers to the NSA. This was revealed to be happening on a daily basis. The Extent of The PRISM Program The disclosed NSA presentation slide published in the various news articles revealed that NSA could unilaterally access data and perform extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. These communications included email, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats, voice chats, file transfers and social networking details. That means that the intelligence agencies can enter and get results for anything they want. The Guardian in its article stated that NSA had access to chats and emails on and Skype since Microsoft had a surveillance capability to deal with the interception of chats in place and so PRISM collection against Microsoft email services will be unaffected because PRISM collects the data before encryption. Further, according to the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, even low-level NSA analysts could search and listen to communications of Americans and other people without warranty and court supervision. He further stated that the NSA databank, with huge collected communications, allows analysts to search the database and listen to the call or read emails of everything stored by the NSA. What’s happening? Since the PRISM documents leaked, there has been a widespread international debate about the United States government’s surveillance and spying programs. The NSA and congress are now engulfed in controversy. There are outspoken officials and supporters of NSA surveillance who do not want to accept anything bad associated with PRISM. These officials have defended the legality and necessity of the surveillance programs, but some US lawmakers are pushing back. There is a diverse coalition of interest groups and private organizations that are directly challenging some of the NSA’s surveillance programs in court. The US government has been sued for an illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance in which the NSA takes up all telephone records handled by Verizon, AT&T and Sprint in the United States. Microsoft, Yahoo and Google putting pressure on the government to declassify the process which demands them to hand over user data to the government. The three companies at the heart of the PRISM program believe that they should share more information with the public, but the government is stopping them. Snowden, by leaking the PRISM program’s classified documents has allowed us to talk about what the US government has been hiding from the public in the name of national security.