Nearly 50 members of Congress are demanding information from the director of national intelligence about the email scanning order that the Department of Justice reportedly delivered to Yahoo last year.
The order, which was revealed earlier this month in stories by Reuters, reportedly required the company to create a system that would inspect all incoming emails on Yahoo’s system for a specific set of terms. It’s not known which terms the government was looking for in the emails, or what the specific trigger for the order was. There are conflicting reports about how the scanning system worked, and whether it actually took place, so the legislators are asking James Clapper, the DNI, to clarify the incident.
“There is significant confusion regarding the existence and nature of the program described by these reports and the legal questions implicated by the accuracy of the specific details,” the letter from Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. Ted Lieu says.
“As legislators, it is our responsibility to have accurate information about the intelligence activities conducted by the federal government. Accordingly, we request information and a briefing as soon as possible for all members of Congress to resolve the issues raised by these reports.”
Both Amash and Lieu are members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the letter was signed by 46 other members of Congress, as well. Lieu is a frequent critic of government policy on privacy and information security and has been pushing for the United States to abandon efforts to compromise encryption systems to grant law enforcement access to users’ devices or data.
There have been a number of reports about the way that Yahoo implemented the mail-scanning system, including some that suggest the company wrote a kernel module for Linux to accomplish the task. Yahoo has said that the mail scanning system described by the reports doesn’t exist right now.