Technology companies stung by the controversy over the National Security Agency’s sweeping Internet surveillance program are calling on U.S. officials to ease the secrecy surrounding national security investigations and lift long-standing gag orders covering the nature and extent of information collected about Internet users.
The requests, made by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo and echoed by a top official from Twitter, came as debate intensified over whether oversight of government spying programs grew too lax in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when security concerns combined with soaring technological capabilities led to individuals being monitored on a vast new scale.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, whose chairman, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has defended the surveillance efforts, asked the NSA on Tuesday to publicly explain programs that use telephone and Internet records “so that we can talk about them, because I think they’re really helpful,” she said.
Calls for greater transparency, rather than new limits on government powers, have been the main public fallout in the days since The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that the NSA was collecting and analyzing data flowing through nine U.S. Internet companies. The program, called PRISM, reportedly was focused on foreigners but also collected data on U.S. citizens and residents that could, under certain conditions, be reviewed by officials.