The news earlier this month, first broken by Reuters and then advanced by The New York Times, that Yahoo had scanned hundreds of millions of personal emails at the behest of the U.S. intelligence community, was shocking. People still use Yahoo? I thought. Shocking!
Seriously though, it would appear that Yahoo did simply hand over many, Many, MANY emails to the federal government, simply because it asked for them. "Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter," Reuters reported on Oct. 4. "Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency's request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time."
Last week, 48 members of Congress (including Hawaii's own Rep. Tulsi Gabbard) signed a brief letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking for clarification on the matter. That's because since press accounts since Reuters' initial report contained very different explanations about exactly how the surveillance was carried out.
""As legislators, it is our responsibility to have accurate information about the intelligence activities conducted by the federal government," stated the Oct. 14 letter from the legislators. "There is significant confusion regarding the existence and nature of Yahoo's software program described by recent reports and the legal questions implicated by the accuracy of specific details. We request information and a briefing as soon as possible for all members of Congress to resolve the issues raised by these reports."