Recently some top secret documents were leaked, these documents contained information about the National Security Agency’s secret PRISM program. Under this program, apparently, the NSA is able to obtain information from U.S. tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft etc. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, has issued a statement regarding PRISM, calling that the activities of this program are ‘lawful’ and that they have been authorized by Congress. Clapper says that these surveillance activities are undertaken so as to obtain information related to foreign intelligence, as well as information that is necessary to “thwart terrorist and cyberattacks against the U.S. and its allies.”

James Clapper’s statement is accompanied by a fact sheet which claims that PRISM is not an undisclosed data mining or collection program. It has been called an “internal government computer system” that is used to aid the government’s “statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information” under the supervision of court, from electronic communication providers. The fact sheet also mentions Section 702 of FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, saying that the government is not involved in obtaining information from U.S. electronic service providers, unilaterally.

It has been claimed that the provider is intimated through a written directive of the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence after approval has been obtained from a FISA court. Interesting thing to note here is that while the fact sheets claims electronic service providers are informed through a written directive, many U.S. tech companies have denied even knowing that PRISM existed. Who you choose to believe, or not believe, is entirely up to you. The Director’s full statement can be read here.

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