Yahoo’s fight against US govt secret surveillance revealed

Unsealed documents from Yahoo’s challenge to the expansion of US surveillance laws in 2007 and 2008 have shown how the company was ultimately made to comply to the US government’s demand for user information.

“In 2007, the US Government amended a key law to demand user information from online services. We refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance and challenged the U.S. Government’s authority,” Ron Bell, Yahoo’s general counsel, explained in a blog post.

“Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) upheld the predecessor to Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The Court ordered us to give the US Government the user data it sought in the matter.”

“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,” he pointed out.

Parts of the released documents remain sealed and classified, and Yahoo has pledged to fight to make the remaining materials (mostly those relating to the FISC challenge) also public.

More than 1,500 document pages have been unsealed and declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and can be downloaded here.

They show the lengths to which Yahoo went to fight the orders, and details that they previously couldn’t release because the weren’t allowed to.

Yahoo was the second company that was seemingly forced to participate in NSA’s PRISM program. It was shown later that the NSA has also been tapping cables connecting Google and Yahoo data centers.

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