The FBI had, and most likely still has, a much closer involvement with the NSA’s mass surveillance programs than previously thought – with access to raw foreign intelligence and data on Americans gleaned from the PRISM program.
The 231-page report, from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, was obtained – albeit in a heavily redacted form – after a Freedom of Information request by The New York Times, a request made possible using key details leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The report finds that in 2008 – almost since the inception of the PRISM program, which allows the NSA access to citizens' information stored by Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo! among others – the FBI had access to slurped private data.
The following year the Feds requested and was given its own raw feed on the activities of foreign nationals spied on under Section 702 of the Patriot Act. By April 2012 the agency, which is tasked with domestic security operations, was beginning to ask for information on specific individuals.
There is praise for the agency’s 702 investigation team: it had "implemented its targeting procedures with commendable deliberation, thoroughness and professionalism,” the Inspector General concluded.
It’s clear that last week’s admission that the NSA had been helping the FBI probe the attack on Sony Pictures is just the tip of the iceberg, and the two agencies have been working closely for some time to share information and techniques.
This could prove an interesting fillip to the trial of Ross Ulbricht – allegedly the Silk Road boss Dread Pirate Roberts – which starts on Tuesday. The FBI is claiming mistakes by Ulbricht led to his arrest, but his defense team asserts that the Feds must have hacked their client, possibly with NSA help. ®