Microsoft, Google sue US for right to reveal nature of surveillance requests



Published time: August 31, 2013 02:20

AFP Photo / Lionel Bonaventure

Microsoft and Google announced Friday they are going forward with a lawsuit against the US government for the right to reveal more information about official requests for customer data by American intelligence.

The companies originally filed suits in June following revelations provided by Edward Snowden of their
relationship with the National Security Agency and the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the government’s
requests of the companies’ systems.

Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith announced the companies
were following through with a suit, saying negotiations with the
government since June have not yielded significant progress. The
companies maintain they should be allowed to disclose the nature
of their relationship with government spying — via the program
known as PRISM — in the face of public criticism after the NSA
stories were reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post.

“On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the
Department of Justice to extend the Government’s deadline to
reply to these lawsuits. We hoped that these discussions
would lead to an agreement acceptable to all. While we
appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable
Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed
that these negotiations ended in failure,”
Smith wrote in a
post entitled “Standing Together for Greater Transparency”
on Microsoft’s corporate blog.

The companies deny PRISM allows the government direct access to
their systems, but they are not legally able to disclose how
often they have been asked to provide information on users.

“We believe we have a clear right under the US Constitution to
share more information with the public,”
Smith wrote. “The
purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can
disclose additional data.”

Though the US government has said it will reveal more details of
the nature and scope of their requests of the companies in 2012,
Smith said it’s not enough.

“We believe it is vital to publish information that clearly
shows the number of national security demands for user content,
such as the text of an email,”
he wrote.

In 2012, the secret FISA court granted 1,856 government requests
for customer data while rejecting none.

Republished from: RT