The Washington Post has published a massive investigative report revealing a secret state-run program called PRISM, which allows the National Security Agency to legally extract "audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets" from the servers of nine U.S. internet companies. According to the document obtained by The Post, the official roster includes Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. (Here's everything we know about PRISM so far.)
The Post has since backtracked on its original stance that the companies "participated knowingly" in the program, and has added this hedging paragraph:
Here are statements from the firms that have so far denied involvement with the program. Remember: Skype is owned by Microsoft, and YouTube is owned by Google. AOL has yet to respond, but we'll update this list when or if it does:
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So what's going on? A few early possibilities:
1. The Washington Post is wrong. At this point, that doesn't look likely.
2. The companies are being less than forthright. They could be phrasing their denials in such a way that they're technically telling the truth. "Comparing denials from tech companies, a clear pattern emerges," writes Andrea Peterson at ThinkProgress:
3. PRISM is simply a very, very closely guarded secret. It could be that the NSA's arrangements with the companies "are kept so tightly compartmentalized that very few people know about it," writes TheWeek.com's Marc Ambinder. "Those who do probably have security clearances and are bound by law not to reveal the arrangement." Security expert Robert David Graham puts it another way:
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