Though it’s unclear whether the collection of this data was indiscriminate or targeted at specific subjects, the language of the documents indicate that the NSA may not have needed an individual warrant for each request.
“Collaborative teamwork was the key to the successful addition of another provider to the Prism system,” the documents read. “This success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established.”
The NSA reportedly had access to pre-encrypted data, “For Prism collection against Hotmail, Live, and Outlook.com emails will be unaffected because Prism collects this data prior to encryption.”
The agents were also quite happy with Skype’s wiretap call quality, “Feedback indicated that a collected Skype call was very clear and the metadata looked complete.”
Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, but Skype was reportedly cooperating with federal agencies before the acquisition.
Most disturbingly, one document indicated that the agencies do not need a special request to get information, saying that the relationship with the tech company “means that analysts will no longer have to make a special request to SSO [Special Source Operation] for this – a process step that many analysts may not have known about”.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden called the SSO the “crown jewel” of the NSA monitoring apparatus.
Of course, Microsoft, Skype, and the Director of National Intelligence issued their own legalese-filled defense of the program. Rather than forcing readers to shift through their responses, just randomly string these 4 plug-and-play elements together and you’ll get the gist:
1. [We care about users]
2. [We respect privacy]
3. [It's legal]
4. [We love the constitution, promise]
Another day, a smaller 4th Amendment