Newly released NSA documents, along with fresh reporting from the Guardian on Friday, show that not only were large internet companies in the U.S.—including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Facebook—aware of massive surveillance operations by the intelligence agency but were receiving payment from the government in order to cover financial costs incurred by their compliance with the measures.
As the Guardian's Ewan MacAskill reports:
The disclosure that taxpayers' money was used to cover the companies' compliance costs raises new questions over the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA. Since the existence of the program was first revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post on June 6, the companies have repeatedly denied all knowledge of it and insisted they only hand over user data in response to specific legal requests from the authorities.
The reporting by MacAskill utilized internal NSA memos about the agency's 'Prism' program provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden and coupled them with recent declassified information about a 2011 ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) which ruled that aspects of certain surveillance programs were unconstitutional.
In the aftermath of that 2011 FISC ruling, as MacAskill, the NSA was forced to pay "millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program."