NSA chief Admiral Michael Rogers, by way of sort-of denying yesterday’s reports about wholesale email surveillance on their behalf being conducted at Yahoo, insisted that the NSA “don’t do that, and no court would ever grant us authority to do that,” adding that it “would be illegal.”
The story suggested Yahoo is conducting total searches of all incoming emails into their substantial Yahoo Mail system, covering every email on every single account of roughly one billion worldwide users. Yahoo called the story “misleading” but did not deny that the general narrative was true.
Reuters, who broke the story, offered more information on it today, saying the request under which Yahoo conducted this surveillance came from a FISA court, and was related to Section 702, which allows the NSA to copy all web traffic flowing along an Internet backbone to search for “keywords,” which is exactly what was being described.
The NSA’s denial appears non-credible, since they’ve done such things repeatedly in the past and lied about them, while Yahoo’s own statement was a decided non-denial, and in the absence of more detail is only going to add fuel to the fire, and raise speculation that Yahoo is make a narrow semantic argument to try to dodge guilt about a massive program.