So who’s lying — the NSA or the tech companies?

From the outset of the furore over the Snowden revelations it’s been obvious that either the NSA or the tech companies must have been lying about whether the agency did or did not have access to the companies’ communications. This statement by the NSA’s lead counsel asserts that the companies knew all along about the agency’s data collection practices.

The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting months of angry denials from the firms.

Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.

Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”

They can’t both be right: so who’s lying?