After the massive leak about the NSA’s PRISM project many people are understandably upset and members of congress have been pulled into closed door meetings to be briefed on the details of what the program is doing. At the same time the companies named in the leaked slides are rushing to perform damage control and protect their businesses from losing customers. So far most of these have come as flat-out denials of any complicity or knowledge of project PRISM. Sadly, even if they were involved most National Security Letters or data requests also come with a gag order preventing them from giving any details or even acknowledging the event. This makes the claims from Microsoft, Google and others seem a tad hollow in the face of what is going on.
After the public release of the NSA’s PRISM program we are hearing that they have an open account with at least one cell service provider. The provider that we know about so far is Verizon and the NSA has quite the hold on them. It seems that Verizon must hand over the metadata for all calls made inside the US as well as calls that are to destinations outside the US. This type of wholesale spying is being granted under section 215 of the Patriot Act. These requests have to be processed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with DoJ oversight to prevent abuse. At least that is how the system is supposed to work.