from the 'it-already-sucks-enough-to-be-us' dept
After spending several days basking in the fiery glow of negative press (and seeing potential investors walk away from buying the company), Yahoo is asking the government to please please let it talk about the spying it apparently performed for the NSA or FBI.
Yahoo sent a letter to National Intelligence director James Clapper on Wednesday urging the U.S. government to provide clearer information to citizens on national security demands for user data.
Yahoo’s letter called for intelligence groups to confirm if future reported demands for data are real, and if they are, declassify them with context for the public.
Pots, kettles, and other analogous materials are rendered incomprehensible in its statement, which involves a media company implicitly criticizing other media companies.
In a letter today to James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Yahoo is formally urging that the U.S. government provide its citizens with clarification around national security orders they issue to internet companies to obtain user data.
While the letter makes specific reference to recent allegations against Yahoo, it is intended to set a stronger precedent of transparency for our users and all citizens who could be affected by government requests for user data. As we’ve said before, recent press reports have been misleading; the mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.
"Does not exist" is not nearly the same thing as "did not exist." This means Yahoo is no longer scanning emails in this fashion, not that it never performed this scanning.
The letter does make a good point about transparency. Currently, Yahoo is unable to defend itself against any allegations because it is likely under a gag order. Yahoo would like Clapper's office to share in the public pain, especially since it had a problem sharing in the communications gathered on its behalf by the email provider.
Public embarrassment or not, Clapper's office is probably not rushing through a declassification review of this Section 702 FISA order. It could still be months or years before the government produces this document and/or allows Yahoo to speak openly about its email scanning program.
Perhaps recognizing that a displeased letter to the ODNI doesn't create much leverage, the company appears to be making this a global issue, rather than simply a domestic one. Marcy Wheeler points out that the letter mentions Yahoo's global reach and users several times and namechecks the EU's Privacy Shield agreement. This may be the key that loosens the Intelligence Community's Glomarred lips.
But there’s another reason why Clapper’s office — or rather ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt — may be so quiet.
Litt is the one who made many of the representations about US spying to authorities here [Wheeler is in Europe at the moment]. Someone — Litt, if he’s still around for a hearing that may take place under President Hillary — may also need to go testify under oath in an Irish court in conjunction with a lawsuit there. Whoever testifies will be asked about the kinds of surveillance implicating European users the government makes US companies do.
In other words, Bob Litt is the one who made certain representations to the European authorities. And now some of those same people are asking questions about how this scan complies with the terms Litt laid out.
Which makes his silence all the more instructive.
Someone's going to have to start talking about Yahoo's email scanning program soon. Yahoo obviously can't, which means the ODNI is going to have to address this on someone else's timetable. We already have US legislators demanding answers. European politicians are already unhappy about the apparent breach of the Privacy Shield Agreement. If the ODNI continues to avoid the issue, all it will be doing is letting a private company take the fall for its possible overreach.