Yahoo! caved to U.S. PRISM threat (because money)

While Yahoo! initially fought NSA order, it didn't take it to the Supremes

yahoo fisa fine

Yahoo! is crowing about how it fought an order to hand over private user information. However, it's emerged that it gave up after the government threatened fines at $250,000/day, doubling weekly.

In the end, Yahoo! had to accept two courts' decisions that the order didn't violate the Fourth Amendment.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers hunker down.

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

Rob Lever finds the fulcrum of the story:

US authorities threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it failed to comply with a secret surveillance program requiring it to hand over user data...court documents showed.

The documents shed new light on the PRISM snooping program. [They] were ordered released by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the case dating from 2007.

Yahoo and others have been seeking to make public these court documents to show they...made numerous attempts to fight these efforts, rather than simply acquiescing. ... Yahoo challenged the government on constitutional grounds, saying the surveillance program violated protections against unreasonable search and seizure..."because they permitted warrantless surveillance of US persons."  

Craig Timberg, Carol D. Leonnig and Julie Tate tag-team to bring us this:

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline [Yahoo's] secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle. ... The company’s loss required [it] to become one of the first to begin providing information...a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other...companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts.

In the aftermath of the revelations, the companies have struggled to defend themselves against accusations that they were willing participants. [Yahoo!] was legally bound from revealing its efforts.

Rather than immediately comply with the sweeping order, Yahoo sued. Central to the case was whether the Protect America Act overstepped...the Fourth Amendment. ... The appeals court, however, ruled that the government had put in place adequate safeguards.  

Zach Miners digs out the last nugget of news:

The information has come to light now because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees how those laws are implemented, agreed to unseal documents in the case.

The government was looking to collect "foreign intelligence information" about "targets reasonably believed to be located outside the United States," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [ODNI] said.  

Cue much barb-trading by Yahoo! and ODNI. First, Yahoo!'s Ron Bell:

We are pleased to announce the release of more than 1,500 pages of once-secret papers. ... In 2007...we refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance.

The FISC and the FISC-R are “secret” courts that oversee requests by the U.S. Government for surveillance orders...closed to the public and typically classified. ... A decision to open FISC or FISC-R records to the public is extremely rare. ... We consider this an important win for transparency. ... We treat public safety with the utmost seriousness, but we are also committed to protecting users’ data.  

...and next, this anonymous ODNI gnome:

Yahoo! opposed the U.S. Government’s motion. ... On April 25, 2008, following extensive briefing by the parties, the FISC held that the directives were lawful [because] there is a foreign intelligence exception to the warrant requirement [and] the U.S. Government has sufficient procedures in place “to ensure that the Fourth Amendment rights of targeted U.S. persons are adequately protected,” [and] “any incidental acquisition of the communications of non-targeted persons located in the United States and of non-targeted U.S. persons, wherever they may be located, is also reasonable.”

Yahoo! then appealed to the FISC-R [which] affirm[ed] that the directives were lawful [and] rejected Yahoo!’s Fourth Amendment challenge to the directives [because] a traditional warrant was not required [due to] “special needs” exceptions.

No rehearing or further review in the U.S. Supreme Court was sought [by Yahoo!]. The PAA [was] replaced with the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 [which] builds in additional safeguards [so] is even more protective of the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. persons.  

Meanwhile, quoting Iain Thomson is getting to be quite a habit around these parts: [Get a room -Ed.]

There are still a considerable amount of documents that won’t be declassified.

Yahoo!'s fight ultimately was useless because the NSA decided to secretly tap the firm's datacenter interlinks anyway.  

Update: MolokoPlus666 ponders the legal implications:

Honest question here. If the government had in fact fined yahoo $250k per day and it negatively impacted the stock price, could the shareholders sue the NSA for hurting Yahoo financially for not cooperating with an illegal/unconstitutional request?  MORE


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