After enduring a week of bad press over its involvement with NSA spying programs, Google has written an open letter to the U.S. government asking for permission to publish more data on national security requests.

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller

Google has worked tremendously hard over the past fifteen years to earn our users’ trust. For example, we offer encryption across our services; we have hired some of the best security engineers in the world; and we have consistently pushed back on overly broad government requests for our users’ data.

We have always made clear that we comply with valid legal requests. And last week, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged that service providers have received Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests.

This punctures a massive hole in Google’s initial defense which was to give off the impression that the Guardian and Washington Post stories were not true or grossly inaccurate. They were true and Google waited for DNI Clapper to confirm them before saying anything that could get them in trouble.

Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, 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.

Aye, there’s the rub. Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and all the other tech companies trying to BS the public on their non-participation in spying programs all have non-disclosure obligations making it a bigger danger to tell the truth about the government than to lie to the public.

We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

Google appreciates that you authorized the recent disclosure of general numbers for national security letters. There have been no adverse consequences arising from their publication, and in fact more companies are receiving your approval to do so as a result of Google’s initiative. Transparency here will likewise serve the public interest without harming national security.

We will be making this letter public and await your response.

David Drummond
Chief Legal Officer

Ironically Google’s “Transparency Report” withholds considerable amounts of significant information regarding the company’s involvement with domestic surveillance programs. Whether this open letter requesting permission to disclose more information leads to anything substantive is anyone’s guess. The letter’s purpose seems to be an attempt to restore Google’s reputation – good luck with that.

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