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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".[1] 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 6, 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.

International response

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.


  1. U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program, Washington Post, June 6–7, 2013

External links

  • "Help make mass surveillance of entire populations uneconomical. We all have a right to privacy, which you can exercise today by encrypting your communications and ending your reliance on proprietary services."
  • "Organization formed in 1990 to maintain and enhance intellectual freedom, privacy, and other values of civil liberties and democracy in networked communications. Publishes newsletters, Internet Guidebooks and other documents, provides mailing lists and other online forums, and hosts a large electronic document archive. Contact: 454 Shotwell Street, San Francisco, CA 94110-1914. Tel: (415) 436-9333. Fax: (415) 436-9993. Executive Director: Sheryl Steele."
  • "EPIC was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy issues relating to the National Information Infrastructure, such as the Clipper Chip, the Digital Telephony proposal, medical records privacy and the sale of consumer data. EPIC conducts litigation, sponsors conferences, produces reports, publishes the EPIC Alert and leads campaigns on privacy issues. For more information email:, or contact EPIC, 1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20009. Tel: (202) 483-1140. Executive Director: Marc Rotenberg."