PRISM is surveillance program that is used by the NSA since 2007. The information of the program was leaked by Edward Snowden and published by The Washington Post and The Guardian on June 6, 2013. The program is operated under the control of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The information contained material that the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court required Verizon to give information to the NSA about customers’ outgoing telephone calls on a daily basis. In addition, a document that was included in the leak indicated that PRISM was the number one source that the NSA used in their analytic reports.
PRISM was originally approved under the FISA Amendments Act under President Bush and the Protect America Act. The program protected private companies who voluntarily cooperated with the U.S. intelligence community, and it was renewed by Congress under President Obama for the next five years. According to various sources, the PRISM program authorizes the NSA to monitor email, phone calls, and other communications of United States citizens and foreigners without a warrant.
On June 6, 2013, the PRISM surveillance program was leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post by Edward Snowden. The disclosed documents contained PowerPoint slides, with four of them being published in news articles. The documents revealed that various technology companies are currently participating in the PRISM program, including Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Apple, Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. According to the documents, the majority of PRISM’s data comes from Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo.
The PowerPoint slides revealed that much of everybody’s communications go through the U.S., since electronic communicates usually follow the least costly route, and the majority of the world’s internet framework is based in the U.S. The presentation also revealed that intelligence analysts in the United States have various opportunities to target the communications of foreigners since their electronic data pass through the U.S.
According to the news reports, the NSA and other intelligence analysts use PRISM data to identify suspect communications of people with at least 50 percent confidence that they are not United States citizens. In addition, the process of gathering this information also directly affects some United States citizens, although unintentionally.
The response from the United States has been divided over the PRISM program. For example, The New York Times lamented that the Obama administration has lost all credibility on security issues, and that members of Congress ignored the evidence of domestic intelligence-gathering. The Obama administration responded that PRISM is used to stop terrorist attacks, and that it provides a valuable service to United States citizens.