Parts of Yahoo NSA court order to be declassified

A 2008 FISC ruling ordered Yahoo to hand over customer data to the government; the tech firm wants to save face

Topics: Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Marissa Mayer, NSA, Prism, Edward Snowden, FISC, FISA, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Surveillance, Spying, Privacy, , ,

Parts of Yahoo NSA court order to be declassifiedYahoo! Chief Executive Marissa Mayer (Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam)

The host of lawsuits filed by tech giants against the government in the wake of NSA spycraft revelations — as I have argued — is little more than face-saving bluster amid a scandal that heavily implicates Silicon Valley.

The government, however, this week essentially agreed to help Internet giant Yahoo save some face: On Thursday a federal judge ruled to declassify parts of a 2008 secret court order that required Yahoo to turn over customer data to the NSA.

To pay Yahoo some dues, before the NSA leaks, the firm had sued the government in 2008 to release documents pertaining to a case in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Yahoo has wanted to make public information about data requests from the government concerning its users, as well as evidence that the firm had pushed back against such requests. Documents leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that Yahoo, along with other tech leviathans like Facebook and Google, took part in the NSA’s PRISM program, regularly handing over customer data to the government.

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This week the government said it will declassify parts of a 2008 FISC order that required Yahoo to turn over customer data under PRISM. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has taken pains to frame her firm, which has functioned — reluctantly or not — as a vector for sprawling government surveillance, as the good guy in this narrative. Mayer suggested this week that her firm faced a double-edged sword when the government demanded to covertly received customer data: “Releasing classified information is treason and you are incarcerated,” Mayer said in an attempt to absolve Yahoo from its role in upholding the near-totalized surveillance state.

Natasha Lennard
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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