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Feds Allow Companies to Reveal FISA Requests (With Caveats)
by Karl Bode 02:07PM Tuesday Jan 28 2014
The government has reached a settlement with several of the nation's biggest Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple) which had (to various degrees) to be able to reveal more information on how many data requests they receive from government. While the government has allowed increased disclosure on national security letters (NSLs, or gag letters), companies have been restricted to only stating a range of numbers of such letters they've received (see Verizon's recent transparency report for example).

The government has refused to allow companies to reveal the number of FISA court requests they receive -- until now. The Wall Street Journal notes that a new agreement struck between these companies and the Obama Administration would allow them to reveal FISA court requests in broad ranges, much like NSL reports. Transparency fans and civil liberties groups argue the agreement doesn't go far enough:
"Asking the public and policymakers to try to judge the appropriateness of the government’s surveillance practices based on a single, combined, rounded number is like asking a doctor to diagnose a patient’s shadow: only the grossest and most obvious problem, if even that, will be ever be evident."
Granted there's a bunch of other problematic caveats included in the agreement, such as the fact that a company can't (as with NSL reports) reveal the actual number of customers impacted, they have to only reveal the number of "customer selectors targeted," which could include multiple customers. There's also a provision stating that companies less than two years old are still entirely banned from revealing requests, presumably to give the NSA some time to analyze and prepare for emerging communications services.

All in all, the agreement is much like the recent Obama NSA "reforms," in that it's a very tiny step forward thanks to the Snowden leaks, though impossible to verify the benefit of without greater transparency -- the likes of which will likely only truly come from another whistle blower.

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Thank God To Snowden

For getting a microscopic bit of our liberty back.

Snohomish, WA

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Durham, NC
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Crisis? What crisis?

For those of you who think:

a). the NSA can be reformed, only needs more judicial oversight, more scrutiny from nonpartisan groups, etc.
b). that Obummer or his crew will take radically curtailing the NSA's sphere of influence seriously

You're deluded. Nothing is going to change because of Snowden. Nothing changed because of Julian Assange, and that guy's a loon, to boot. The lone man, waving his arms and crying foul doesn't make the government the least bit concerned. They could disappear Snowden, KGB style within the hour if they so wished. Snowden's become like a convenient prop for the government to say they're going to "reform" this or that. This problem is systemic. The NSA is unconstitutional to the very core and needs to be defunded and dismantled. There is no other solution that is not wildly unconstitutional.