Yahoo fights to declassify NSA court documents

Filing a motion with the secret FISA court, the tech giant seeks to prove that it "objected strenuously" to handing the government customer data.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Yahoo is continuing its fight to show that it was not involved in handing over consumer information to the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program.

The company has petitioned a court to unseal documents from a classified 2008 case, which apparently shows that Yahoo "objected strenuously" to providing the government with customer data, according to the Mercury News.

"Release of this Court's decision and the parties' briefing is necessary to inform the growing public debate about how this Court considers and examines the Government's use of directives," Yahoo attorneys Marc Zwillinger and Jacob Sommer wrote in a filing to the court on Tuesday. "Courts have long recognized the public has a right to access court records."

While most court opinions are public documents, Yahoo's 2008 case took place in a court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This means that everything was classified and, until last month, Yahoo was not even allowed to reveal that it was involved in the case.

Yahoo's goal now is to release this 6-year-old court opinion. It's still not clear if the litigation will be revealed; but, if it is, and it shows NSA overreach, things could get interesting.

The NSA is one of the biggest surveillance and eavesdropping agencies in the U.S. and was where former CIA employee and whistle-blower Edward Snowden was working when he decided to leak some of the agency's top-secret documents to the press last month.

This document leak has led to the public finding out that the government has been working to spy on people via metadata from Internet companies and cellular records in two programs -- the 2015 Program and PRISM.

Those tech companies alleged to be involved in the PRISM program include Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Google, and Apple. However, supposedly 98 percent of PRISM production is based on just Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft.

All the companies allegedly involved have denied cooperating with the government. And, Yahoo isn't the only company to petition for the unsealing of secret documents, Google and Microsoft have also filed requests with the FISA court to disclose classified information.