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Foreign Spy Law Authorized Yahoo Email Scan: Reuters

Foreign Spy Law Authorized Yahoo Email Scan: Reuters
U.S. government officials were quoted by the media saying that authority under a foreign intelligence law was given to a Yahoo operation in 2015 to scan the incoming email of its customers for specific information identified by the U.S. government.
Reuters had reported that in response to a classified U.S. government request to scan emails belonging to hundreds of millions of Yahoo users, the Yahoo program was undertaken.
A long-running debate in the United States over the proper balance between digital privacy and national security has been rekindled by the revelation.
The sources, who requested anonymity to speak freely, reportedly told Reuters that the Department of Justice obtained the order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
It is possible similar such orders have been issued to other telecom and internet companies even though the order came under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related specifically to Yahoo, the sources said.
Yahoo, in a statement, said that the "mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems" and Tuesday's report by Reuters was "misleading".
Yahoo declined to comment when asked to identify any specific way in which the story was misleading, or whether the operation described by Reuters had previously existed.
The program had not been reinstalled before Alex Stamos, the company's former top security officer, left the company for Facebook last year and security staff disabled the scan program after they discovered it, reported Reuters quoting former Yahoo employees.
Sources said that the exact nature of the Yahoo order was being investigated by the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, which are given oversight of U.S. spy agencies.
Saying it may amount to an unprecedented use of the authorities granted to the National Security Agency by Congress, privacy advocates expressed alarm at the reported Yahoo program.
The Yahoo report renewed questions about whether government surveillance programs are subject to sufficient congressional oversight and public scrutiny, said former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of classified documents to journalists in 2013 exposing NSA surveillance programs while speaking to students at Georgetown University on Tuesday.
"That's not to say that this Yahoo program is sinister. It could be related to cyber security, where it is related to known malware actors," Snowden said via satellite
While not denying the media reports about the issue, government officials on Wednesday sought to defend U.S. surveillance operations as appropriately balanced and transparent.
"The United States only uses signals intelligence for national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary people," Richard Kolko, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the checks and balances placed on what information or methods the intelligence community can seek and told reporters that he could not confirm the existence of specific intelligence programs or intelligence tools.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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