Yes so in whatever form PRISM does exist. I talked about it… well more rolled over this in previous posts. Now everything that you may want to know about PRISM to date, that is by 12 June can be found here.
Now there are two parts here, or maybe three.
1) collection of communications that happens to be passing over the wires
2) collection of social, other online activities of US citizens
3) collection of a) communications, b) social, other online activities; of non-US citizens.
Now PRISM is about (2) and (3b). PRISM is a system the NSA uses to gain access to the private communications of users of nine popular Internet services including Google, Facebook and Apple. It seems to be that an official request for information of a particular individual can be made to any of these services, and they will comply if the request is legally valid. These Internet service deny strongly that NSA has direct access to their servers.
So apparently NSA does not have direct access to the 9 most popular Internet Services, but what is the breath of their power to collect data on US-citizens?
Well the FISA Amendments Act (Section 702) does not require the government to show probable cause to believe that the target of surveillance has committed a crime. This is only for non-US citizens. Instead of showing probable cause to a judge, Section 702 of FISA allows senior Obama administration officials to “authorize” the “targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” The surveillance may not “intentionally target” an American, but the NSA can obtain the private communications of Americans as part of a request that officially “targets” a foreigner. There is some use of the Patriots Act for this. I am not sure how the FISA Section 702 and the Patriots Act overlap though.
Ha! So if you as a US-citizen are communicating with an individual that is outside of the US and deemed as a threat to national security, your data is being collected. You could be a supporter of Greenpeace for example, they were targeted for surveillance in the past.
So what is my take on PRISM. It seems perfectly reasonable that in the name of national security requests for data on individuals can be collected by government intelligence. Same as officials upholding the law would request for a search warrant. However, PRISM should not be secret. That this is happening should be transparent to all US citizens and non-citizens. Why keep a secret? The supermarkets are pretty transparent about collecting our personal buying habits, maybe the package the justification in fancy packaging, but the reason is clear, to make money. So why does the government have to go around pretending still that it does not do these things? Has it not yet realized that the Cold War is over, and has been for quite some years now?