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Project on Government Oversight

We Need To Know: POGO and Partners Send Letter Asking the US Government to Be More Open About National Security-Related Mass Surveillance

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July 18, 2013 | By: Angela Canterbury

President Barack Obama
The White House
Attorney General Eric Holder
United States Department of Justice
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
General Keith Alexander
Director
National Security Agency
The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
United States Senate
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader
United States Senate
The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representative
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chairman
Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Senate
The Honorable Saxby Chambliss
Vice Chairman
Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Senate
The Honorable Mike Rogers
Chairman
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
The Honorable Dutch Ruppersberger
Ranking Member
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

July 18, 2013

 

We the undersigned are writing to urge greater transparency around national security-related requests by the US government to Internet, telephone, and web-based service providers for information about their users and subscribers.

First, the US government should ensure that those companies who are entrusted with the privacy and security of their users’ data are allowed to regularly report statistics reflecting:

  • The number of government requests for information about their users made under specific legal authorities such as Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the various National Security Letter (NSL) statutes, and others;
  • The number of individuals, accounts, or devices for which information was requested under each authority; and
  • The number of requests under each authority that sought communications content, basic subscriber information, and/or other information.

Second, the government should also augment the annual reporting that is already required by statute by issuing its own regular “transparency report” providing the same information: the total number of requests under specific authorities for specific types of data, and the number of individuals affected by each.

As an initial step, we request that the Department of Justice, on behalf of the relevant executive branch agencies, agree that Internet, telephone, and web-based service providers may publish specific numbers regarding government requests authorized under specific national security authorities, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the NSL statutes. We further urge Congress to pass legislation requiring comprehensive transparency reporting by the federal government and clearly allowing for transparency reporting by companies without requiring companies to first seek permission from the government or the FISA Court.

Basic information about how the government uses its various law enforcement–related investigative authorities has been published for years without any apparent disruption to criminal investigations. We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government’s national security–related authorities.

This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use, and to international users of US-based service providers who are concerned about the privacy and security of their communications.

Just as the United States has long been an innovator when it comes to the Internet and products and services that rely upon the Internet, so too should it be an innovator when it comes to creating mechanisms to ensure that government is transparent, accountable, and respectful of civil liberties and human rights. We look forward to working with you to set a standard for transparency reporting that can serve as a positive example for governments across the globe.

 

Thank you.

 


Companies

Nonprofit Organizations & Trade Associations

AOL Access
Apple Inc. American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
CloudFlare American Civil Liberties Union
CREDO Mobile American Library Association
Digg American Society of News Editors
Dropbox Americans for Tax Reform
Evoca Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School
Facebook Center for Democracy & Technology
Google Center for Effective Government
Heyzap Committee to Protect Journalists
LinkedIn Competitive Enterprise Institute
Meetup Computer & Communications Industry Association
Microsoft The Constitution Project
Mozilla Demand Progress
Reddit Electronic Frontier Foundation
salesforce.com First Amendment Coalition
Sonic.net Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom
Stripe Freedom to Read Foundation
Tumblr FreedomWorks
Twitter Global Network Initiative
Yahoo! GP-Digital
YouNow Human Rights Watch
  Internet Association
  Liberty Coalition
  National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  National Coalition Against Censorship
  New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute
  OpenTheGovernment.org
  Project On Government Oversight
  Public Knowledge
  Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press
  Reporters Without Borders
  TechFreedom
  Wikimedia Foundation
  World Press Freedom Committee


Investors

 
Boston Common Asset Management  
Domini Social Investments  
F&C Asset Management Plc  
New Atlantic Ventures  
Union Square Ventures  
Y Combinator  

 

 

 

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