FISA Court, let us make the case for transparency

As part of its mass surveillance programs, the federal government has asked private companies like Google and Microsoft for users’ data ███ times in the past year alone.

Annoyed by that censor bar? So are we! But sadly, these companies are currently prevented from even publishing aggregate data on the number of orders forcing them to turn over user data issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.

That’s why we’ve joined with First Amendment Coalition, ACLU, CDT, and EFF in an amicus brief demanding that the FISA Court recognize companies have a First Amendment right to describe their role in the government’s surveillance of the Internet.

Now we’re asking the Court to let us participate in oral arguments on this vital question of transparency:

The argument (and ultimately the resolution) of the Google and Microsoft motions will deal with the fundamental question of how the public is to be informed about a surveillance system undertaken to protect that public. It will explore the restrictions on disclosure imposed by statute and this Court’s orders and the limitations on such compelled non-disclosure imposed by those same statutes and the Constitution. Amici and their counsel, while mindful of constraints imposed by considerations of national security in this area, have substantial experience in advancing arguments rooted in the public in open judicial proceedings. Our participation in oral argument would, we submit, assist the Court in its deliberations, facilitate the public’s understanding and evaluation of government surveillance programs, and provide transparency to a judicial oversight process that has been the subject of considerable discussion, some accurate, some not.

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