NSA building in the 1950s. National Security Agency A high-powered coalition of civil liberties groups and tech titans—including all but one of the companies involved in the National Security Agency’s PRISM program—is demanding greater transparency about covert government surveillance programs, as well as the growing body of secret law that authorizes them. In a letter released Thursday that was spearheaded by the Center for Democracy and Technology, 63 technology companies and advocacy groups asked the government to allow online service providers to publish general statistics about the use of secret intelligence tools, including orders under the Patriot Act’s Section 215—the authority at the heart of NSA’s controversial bulk metadata collection program—and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which provides the legal basis for PRISM surveillance of international communications on services like Facebook and Google.
As CDT senior counsel Kevin Bankston, who orchestrated the letter, has explained, the request covers “the same type of general numerical information that has been published about law enforcement surveillance for years.” The letter also calls for the government itself to issue a regular “Transparency Report” on surveillance, similar to the ones several major tech firms have recently begun releasing.
And they’re asking Congress to require the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to begin publishing declassified versions of significant legal opinions—like the one that reinterpreted Section 215 to allow indiscriminate collection of entire call record databases.