Senate Judiciary Subcommittee to talk NSA transparency

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy will hold a hearing next week on measures to increase transparency around NSA surveillance programs.

The Subcommittee — chaired by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — will examine Franken’s Surveillance Transparency Act on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The bill, which was introduced in August and reintroduced last week, would increase requirements for government reporting about surveillance and would allow companies to publish the scope of surveillance requests they receive and comply with.

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According to the Franken’s announcement on the bill’s reintroduction, the hearing “will include participation from top administration officials, privacy experts, and a representative from Google.”

Kevin Bankston, outgoing director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression project, will testify at the hearing, according to CDT staff.

According to a Google spokeswoman, the company's Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security, Richard Salgado, will be testifying as well.

During a Monday hearing held by Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which supervises anti-terrorism surveillance programs, intelligence agency officials warned against increased disclosures.

If companies publish information about how many and what types of surveillance requests they get, terrorists will be able to avoid the platforms that are highly monitored, the officials argued.

“That starts to give a lot more granularity about what our capabilities are” regarding specific companies, Robert Litt, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said.

The agencies are concerned about “having this info broken down at a level of detail that would enable people to avoid surveillance,” he said.

“That kind of specificity is very, very difficult for us to accept,” Patrick Kelley, acting general counsel at the FBI, said.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is also examining this issue in a case brought by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn.