After details of a government program called PRISM with alleged hooks into the servers of major internet companies became public this week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper decided it was necessary to reveal even more information. According to his statement, clearing up the "significant misimpressions" and "inaccuracies" requires the release of further classified info, included in a fact sheet listed after the break. So what is PRISM, according to the "Facts on Collection of Information Pursuant to Section 702"?
It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government's statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision...This authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008.
In short, Section 702 facilitates the targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets located outside the United States under court oversight. Service providers supply information to the Government when they are lawfully required to do so.
The document claims PRISM is not an "undisclosed collection or data mining program." The above passages seemingly align with statements (including one today from Yahoo) from the companies listed claiming that they only respond to inquiries when required to by law. It goes on to offer some details on the process used to identify foreign targets ("Section 702 cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, or any other U.S. person, or to intentionally target any person known to be in the United States") and the oversight involved. Specifically mentioned is the involvement of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the federal government. Additionally, another report from The Guardian exposes more internal documents that contradict the theory that PRISM involves access to "cable intercepts," although that can occur under a different process.