Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Secretive FISA Court Sides With Yahoo Over Disclosure of 2008 PRISM Case

In 2008, lawyers for Web company Yahoo sought to avoid becoming part of the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program by fighting it in a case before the secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Yesterday, that court ruled that it would unseal documents related to the case so Yahoo could prove that it objected to participating in the notorious PRISM program, disclosed last month by former NSA employee Edward Snowden and later confirmed by the U.S. government.

The three-page order, which you can read below, requires the government to review the case and say which documents from the docket can be declassified by July 29. The order says that government lawyers took “no position” over whether or not the documents should be disclosed. There was a clear understanding that the documents would be subjected to a declassification review, implying that the resulting disclosures will probably contain several redacted sections.

Before now, even disclosing that a FISA court hearing had taken place — its hearings are conducted in secret, and lawyers who appear before it must have a U.S. security clearance — was illegal. Other companies, including Google and Microsoft , have asked the court for permission to document the scope of their participation in PRISM and other surveillance programs, by seeking permission to unseal statistics on instances when government agencies have requested data on user accounts.

Facebook, Microsoft and Apple have already made some limited disclosures on those figures as the result of a deal worked out with the government. Google has argued that the deal doesn’t go far enough, and sought formal permission from the FISA court to publish a more detailed set of figures in order to defend its reputation in regard to PRISM.

Yahoo FISA Ruling


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”