Tech giants ask Congress to move quickly on NSA transparency bills

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The two bills — The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013, authored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), and the Surveillance Order Reporting Act, from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) — would allow companies to publish the number of requests they receive under national security and foreign intelligence laws, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The House and Senate Judiciary Committees should “quickly move forward to consider” the bills, the group wrote.

“We urge the Committees to hold hearings on the issue of surveillance transparency as a prelude to the markup of these bills.”

The tech companies and advocates also made suggestions on how to strengthen the bills.

Lofgren’s bill would allow companies to publish the number of National Security Letters (NSLs) they receive, while Franken’s does not. 

“We would strongly support inclusion of a similar provision regarding NSLs in the Senate bill,” the group wrote.

On the other hand, Franken’s bill establishes requirements for the government to report on its surveillance activities “and we would welcome the addition of such provisions to the House bill,” the letter said.

Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn have filed lawsuits with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts, asking for the ability to publish aggregate information on the number of national security-related requests they get for user data. The Department of Justice has until Monday evening to file its response to the companies.