Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

'Normal' is killing us.

Donald Trump is out of the White House. COVID-19 is fading, at least in wealthier nations. The world, they say, is returning to “normal.” That’s the narrative that the corporate media is selling. But there’s a problem: “normal” is destroying our planet, threatening our democracies, concentrating massive wealth in a tiny elite, and leaving billions of people without access to life-saving vaccines amid a deadly pandemic. Here at Common Dreams, we refuse to accept any of this as “normal.” Common Dreams just launched our Mid-Year Campaign to make sure we have the funding we need to keep the progressive, independent journalism of Common Dreams alive. Whatever you can afford—no amount is too large or too small—please donate today to support our nonprofit, people-powered journalism and help us meet our goal.

Please select a donation method:

Yahoo! lawyers says the company refused to comply with what it viewed as 'unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance' and were threatened with large fines for their challenge to the U.S. government’s claimed authority. (File)

How US Govt Bullied Yahoo! over NSA Access to User Data

Case is significant because it sheds light on the controversial level of complicity between the nation's largest internet companies and the NSA regarding the agency's mass surveillance practices

Jon Queally, staff writer

As the internet giant Yahoo! attempted to refuse compliance with requests by the NSA to access the online data for millions of the company's users, the U.S. Justice Department threatened to fine the company a staggering $250,000 a day, according to new reporting based on previously secret court documents released on Thursday.

In a case that dates back to 2007 and 2008, Yahoo! had argued to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that the NSA's demands for user data were both "unconstitutional and overbroad." The tech company was denied by the court and the records of the entire case were sealed from review. Not only was the public not aware of the legal challenges going on behind closed doors, but even Yahoo! lawyers were kept in the dark about key aspects of the case.

As the company's general counsel and leader attorney in the case Ron Bell, explained in a blog post on Thursday:

Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team. The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts. At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.

Our fight continues. We are still pushing for the FISC to release materials from the 2007-2008 case in the lower court. The FISC indicated previously that it was waiting on the FISC-R ruling in relation to the 2008 appeal before moving forward. Now that the FISC-R matter is resolved, we will work hard to make the materials from the FISC case public, as well.

The Yahoo! case is significant because it sheds light on the largely secret agreements, and the controversial level of complicity, between the nation's largest internet companies and the NSA regarding the agency's mass surveillance practices that were largely conducted without public awareness prior to leaked documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. As the Guardian reports:

Almost all the major US tech firms including AOL, Apple, Google and Microsoft were listed by the NSA as participants in the program, which was run in conjunction with the NSA’s British equivalent, GCHQ.

Begun under the Bush administration the program collected information from the major tech companies under Section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act. The NSA’s slides obtained by Snowden contained a briefing presentation which said Prism granted access to records such as emails, chat conversations, voice calls, documents and more.

Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project, said he had not yet reviewed all the documents but that it appeared Yahoo “had challenged the warrantless wiretapping program more than any other of its competitors”.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Support progressive journalism.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

US and Israel Vote 'No' as 184 Nations Condemn American Blockade of Cuba

"The U.N. vote... on Cuba was a chance for President Biden to show global leadership," said CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. "He failed miserably."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


With Planet's Future at Stake, Biden Told to Be Bold With Pick for Top Energy Post

"It's time to treat climate change like the emergency it is, and stop approving new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, reads a letter signed by over 300 climate-focused groups.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


SCOTUS Solidifies Students' Free Speech Protections, Upholding Right to Say 'F**k Cheer'

"The message from this ruling is clear—free speech is for everyone, and that includes public school students."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Right-Wing SCOTUS Majority Rules Union Organizing on Farms Violates Landowners' Rights

The Supreme Court "fails to balance a farmer's property rights with a farm worker's human rights," said United Farm Workers of America.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


Lawmakers Tell Biden US Has 'Moral Obligation' to Ban Landmines

"If the United States takes these steps it will be welcomed around the world."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·