The Justice Department is reviewing a letter from Google asking to be able to reveal national security data requests in order to dispel the notion that the search engine giant has allowed the government “unfettered access to our users’ data.”
“Government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation,” David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Drummond asked that the organization be allowed to publish its Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including those Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.
“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made,” he writes, adding: “Google has nothing to hide.”
The Justice Department issued a statement to Main Justice saying it had received Drummond’s letter.
“We are in the process of reviewing their request,” said a department spokeswoman.
Facebook’s general counsel, Ted Ullyot, released a statement yesterday afternoon saying the social networking company “would welcome the opportunity to provide a transparency report that allows us to share with those who use Facebook around the world a complete picture of the government requests we receive, and how we respond.”
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney said this afternoon that administration officials knew about the requests from the technology companies.
“We have seen the letters from Google and other companies and understand that they have questions about how we can best talk about these programs moving forward,” Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to a White House pool report.
The Guardian newspaper reported last week that NSA has been collecting records from millions of Verizon customers for seven years. Shortly thereafter, The Washington Post wrote about the agency’s PRISM program, which was created to obtain information about foreigners abroad from the world’s largest Web services.
The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the leak of the classified information about the programs.