What follows is a letter from Google to the Justice Department begging for permission to offer their users more accurate (but still vague) information about government
requests demands for personal information. The Patriot Act, in addition to creating a rubber stamp process to neutralize 4th Amendment protections against searches and seizures, also attaches a criminal penalty for divulging any information about any of the actual searches conducted under that process. If you’re going to engage in thousands of violations of the Constitution, it definitely helps if you can keep the public in the dark using threats of prison time to make people shut up about it.
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.
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.
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.
Chief Legal Officer