The National Security Agency isn’t the only government organization involved with the controversial PRISM program revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2013. A newly declassified report obtained by the New York Times reveals that the FBI has also gradually increased its involvement with the search, chat, and email collection program.
The report, which still features many redactions, was released by the Justice Department as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought against it by the Times. It details the FBI’s increasing interest in PRISM, expanding the Bureau’s initial role as a watchdog meant to ensure Americans’ accounts weren’t scooped up, to an active participant in the program.
PRISM has been decried as unconstitutional by organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sued the NSA over the program alongside 19 other organizations in July 2013. (The organization has also taken the NSA to court in other cases involving the collection of data concerning American citizens without the obtainment of a warrant.)
The NSA has always seemed like something of a symbol meant to represent the intelligence community as a whole. Now the FBI is going to be on the receiving end of some of that anger, too, all while attracting the ire of many groups which see its attempts to undermine smartphone security by requiring backdoors as an invasion of privacy.
Those efforts are dire enough that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill in December meant to prevent the FBI and other agencies from requiring technology companies to install backdoors, which allow the government unfettered access to an American’s devices.
“This bill sends a message to leaders of those agencies to stop recklessly pushing for new ways to vacuum up Americans’ private information,” Wyden said in a statement on his site, “and instead put that effort into rebuilding public trust.” Perhaps the FBI will heed that call now that its willingness to piggyback off NSA programs has been made public.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]