Dissecting Big Tech's Denial of Involvement in NSA's PRISM Spying Program


John Black, an assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado, shared a similar opinion.

"Many times these laws say they have to comply and they can't disclose their compliance," Black said.

However, the companies are talking about it, not simply saying "no comment." Apple, Facebook and Paltalk even specifically said they had never heard of PRISM.

Rumold said that could be a technicality.

"Apple might have had no idea of the government's code name for the program, which was PRISM," Rumold said. "What Apple didn't say is that, 'We have never given the NSA access to our data.'"

Google, on the other hand, said there was no back door to its servers.

"Back door at Google might have one meaning, but what they didn't say is they aren't giving the NSA widespread access to data, which they could potentially say if they had not received an order and given the NSA access to their data," Rumold said.

Black echoed a similar thought about the wording "direct access" and the "back door" phrase.

"They seem consistently careful in saying we don't give back-door access to the government servers," Black said. "That's not the same thing as saying the government has no way to access any of our data."

Black suggested that maybe the NSA doesn't have far-reaching or direct access to the servers, but the companies don't deny that the government can get information through some sort of shared servers when they have a court order.

Marc Ambinder, author of "Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry," told ABC News something similar.

PRISM is, in part, a software system that allows the government to sift through large amounts of data in different formats, he said. When the Internet companies came on board, as the leaked document showed, it required them to make their data compatible with the system.

That doesn't mean all data coming from, say, Apple or Google would be readable through the PRISM system. It just means that when a court order was granted, there was a system already in existence that allowed the government to intake and immediately use the data Apple or Google provided in compliance with a FISA court order.

James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a written statement that the Post report and another on phone surveillance by The Guardian contained "numerous inaccuracies," and that the data collection only targeted non-Americans outside the United States.

President Obama today stressed that members of Congress repeatedly have been informed of the programs.

"The programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they're classified, but they're not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," he said.

Still, both Black and Rumold said it was highly unlikely that the technology companies wouldn't have been informed of the programs.

"Google is probably the biggest collection of information on Earth. It would be shocking to me that the NSA wasn't attempting with all its power to get access to Google," Rumold said. "Google might have very well fought a valiant and difficult fight to keep the NSA away from it, but there is only so much it can do as an American company if you get a valid United States court order."

And that's where Google CEO Page makes the point about making these programs more transparent.

"Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed -- there needs to be a more transparent approach," he said in the blog post released Friday. "Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive."

ABC News' Abby Phillip contributed to this report.

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