- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2014

Yahoo executives said the federal government made them participate in a surveillance program and turn over key private client information — else face $250,000 per day in fines.

The insider account of how and why Yahoo helped the feds expand their spy program came to light just this week, after a judge ordered some materials related to the company’s challenge of the government’s actions to be unsealed, The Associated Press reported.

Yahoo said in a statement that feds changed a law during the George W. Bush administration that allowed government to demand certain user data from online services provided by the company. Yahoo subsequently challenged that law change.

“Our challenge and a later appeal in the case did not succeed,” Yahoo’s general counsel, Ron Bell, said in the statement, AP reported. But the just-unsealed material shows “how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. government’s surveillance efforts. At one point, the U.S. government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”

The aspect of law at question is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s Amendments Act, and the topic of PRISM — a portion of the text that allows the federal government to access online communications of certain companies. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden talked about Section 702 and PRISM months ago.

Yahoo maintained its always tried to secure users’ information — and will continue to do the same.

“We consider this an important win for transparency and hope that these records help promote informed discussion about the relationship between privacy, due process and intelligence gathering,” Mr. Bell said, AP reported.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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