The FISA Court has officially agreed to declassify that Yahoo was the company that challenged a Protect Amendment Act order in 2007.
Once this PRISM slide was published, it was always pretty likely that Yahoo — or maybe Google — was the company in question. Yahoo started complying around the time the FISC decision was reached; Google joined in after the FISCR decision was unsealed.
Which leaves … Microsoft, which started cooperating before the law and then the FISA Court forced it to (though collection may not have begun until after PAA passed and, as Rayne has pointed out, Microsoft’s code was being exploited by the government for entirely different purposes in precisely that timeframe).
Now might be a good time to review what happened with the 7 companies the government asked to participate in an illegal wiretap program based solely on the President’s say-so. Per the 2009 NSA Draft IG Report, the companies are:
Here’s what these companies provided:
This table tells us a great deal about the program–and also the legal problems behind it.
Internet provider D — the one of two that cooperated — only did so for 7 months in 2003, and only provided Internet content (probably primarily Hotmail emails), not metadata.
Which left the government to get the other Internet data off of AT&T and Verizon’s switches (we know C is MCI because February 2005 is when Verizon bought it, which explains why it started handing over Internet content and metadata then). As the IG Report explains,
A, B, and C provided access to the content of Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-affiliate email from communication links they owned and operated.
The last category of private sector assistance was access to Internet Protocol (IP) metadata associated with communications of al Qaeda (and affiliates) from data links owned or operated by COMPANIES A, B, and C.
In other words, Microsoft and Yahoo, the biggest free email providers, were not crazy about providing content (though one, probably Microsoft, did for a period). And they were completely unwilling to provide IP metadata.
So the government just went to AT&T and Verizon’s switches and took it there.
Even the 2004 kluge to keep the Internet metadata program going after Jack Goldsmith and Jim Comey objected was a stretch, as the FISC Pen Register/Trap & Trace (PR/TT) solution was getting Internet metadata not from the Internet companies, but from the phone companies through whose networks the Internet providers’ data traveled. Before that, they were basically just stealing the Internet companies data.
Remember, in 2008 during the FISA Amendments Act debate, the trade group for tech companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, issued a letter stating,
The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) strongly opposes S. 2248, the “FISA Amendments Act of 2007,” as passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008. CCIA believes that this bill should not provide retroactive immunity to corporations that may have participated in violations of federal law. [my emphasis]
Basically, they wanted the telecoms to get busted for stealing their (customers’) stuff.