The U.S. threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it didn't fork over user emails. Experts say Yahoo's legal loss led the way for the Prism program. Fred Katayama reports.
It's enough to turn Yahoo purple. Unsealed documents show the U.S. government was so set on accessing customer emails and communications from the Internet company that it issued a threat: Hand over that data, or pay fines of $250,000 a day. And that fine would double each successive week. That happened in 2008. Yahoo stood up to the feds and sued instead, challenging the order's constitutionality. Yahoo lost, then appealed but reportedly complied with the order as it pursued its appeal. It later lost that appeal, too. Experts say Yahoo's legal loss paved the way for the Prism surveillance program that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed last summer. That program allowed the agency to access emails from Yahoo and other Internet companies such as Facebook, MIcrosoft and Google. Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said, "It tells us how very serious the Bush administration was about trying to get the Internet firms to turn over this data... That's heavy handed." There's still more we don't know. Yahoo said that despite the declassification, portions of the documents remain sealed. Yahoo shares rose in early trading, adding to its slight gains this year.