PRISM is a (formerly secret) program of the National Security Agency and the FBI to "tap directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs". Discovery of the program, intended to track foreign targets, dismayed some Americans concerned that it might be used for domestic political advantage. Some others worried that its effectiveness in countering anti-US espionage or terrorism, might be diminished.
It has long been known that any cell phone conversation containing key words like "bomb" or "airplane" triggered NSA surveillance programs.
The documents detailing this leak were released by Edward J. Snowden, a former defense contractor, and IT specialist on June 6th, 2013, after the whistle blower informed The Guardian newspaper of the UK. The documents leaked included a 41 slide PowerPoint presentation on the mechanisms and morally questionable motives of PRISM. The documents also revealed the identities of the various companies actively releasing user information to the United States government.
The leak of PRISM resulted almost immediately in outrage from various countries. From the Netherlands, Sophie in 't Veld, MeP, called it a violation of International Law. Sharp criticisms of hypocrisy came from the People's Republic of China, claiming that while the United States accused China of espionage, the United States was conducting global espionage on a massive scale. The German Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has decried the program as "monstrous", and even the United Kingdom has stated it has concerns about the legality, and scope of Prism.
- U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program, Washington Post, June 6-7, 2013