Google Challenges Surveillance Gag Order: Squares NSA Secrecy Against First Amendment

Tyler Durden's picture

It appears that unlike the president, whose rating is plunging in the aftermath of PRISM-gate, US corporations are not eager to double down on their privacy intrusive ways, and some are becoming increasingly concerned about what all the recent exposure may do to their bottom line. Such as Google, which earlier today became only the first company to challenge the long-standing gag order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), arguing that the company has a First Amendment right to speak about information it is forced to give to the government. From Google: "Greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately." And yes, GOOG, which once upon a time pretended its motto is "don't evil" and since transformed it to "be evil, just don't get caught", still refer to "constitutional rights" - how quaint.

From WaPo:

The legal filing, which cites the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, is the latest move by the California-based tech giant to protect its reputation in the aftermath of news reports about sweeping National Security Agency surveillance of Internet traffic.

Google, one of nine companies named in NSA documents as providing information to the top-secret PRISM program, has demanded that U.S. officials give it more leeway to describe the company’s relationship with the government. Google and the other companies involved have sought to reassure users that their privacy is being protected from unwarranted intrusions.

It is not as if Google is even requesting much: in the petition, filed with the FISA court in downtown Washington, Google is seeking permission to publish the total numbers of requests the court makes of the company and the numbers of user accounts they affect. The company long has made regular reports with regard to other data demands from the U.S. government and from other governments worldwide. Basically, this would at least put the FISA court's data demands on equal footing with all other judicial entities. But we can't have that now, can we, or else the terrorists win.

That information would not necessarily shed much light on PRISM, whose existence was first reported by The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper. But initiating a high-profile legal showdown may help Google’s efforts to portray itself as aggressively resisting government surveillance.

More importantly, it will now start an arms, or rather words race, between US corporations, in which the company that does not seek to emulate the "truth-telling" overtures of others, will be seen as the one most willing to handover user privacy to a secret organization without a fight. Which to internet companies means less users, less eyeballs, less clicking lifeblood. And most importantly, less top and bottom line.

All of the technology companies involved in PRISM, including Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, have struggled to respond to the revelations about NSA surveillance. Most have issued carefully word denials, saying that they do not permit wholesale data collection while acknowledging that they comply with legal government information requests.

So now the ball is in the administration's court which will have no choice but to reject the demand, or else find itself bombarded on all sides by enjoinders from all other internet companies. Which in turn will put Obama in an even more unpleasant place: against the companies.

Because if anything, at least until this point he could spin the ever-escalating scandal as one in which the US was collaborating with an very eager private sector. This will very soon no longer be the case.

And if the accelerating of PRISM-gate means further loss of revenues and profits for some of the biggest companies in the world as a result of Obama's resolute defense of his Dubya legacy inheritance which he has succeeded in putting on steroids, then we would most certainly open a long private sector, short Obama pair trade.

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Yen Cross's picture

 Monkey see< Monkey do>

knukles's picture

Poo flinging for comedic entertainment and propaganda purposes... well, OK, I over state my case... just perceptions management....

Cdad's picture

Spare me any too late rhetorical defense of the Constitution from Google.  I'm not long lip service or Google shares...and neither should anyone else be.

Good grief.

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

Rats flee sinking ships.

Everyone will rush to make their hands as 'clean' as possible.

We've already seen Rahm Emanuel, Geithner and soon Bernanke flee... 

SWRichmond's picture

I'm not buying the whole "Google as defender of liberty" thing.  AFAIAC Google is an NSA front company.

zerozulu's picture

Time is ripe for a new search engine to replace Google.

chumbawamba's picture

Google is in fact a 14th Amendment person, just as any "freed" negro slave.  They can in fact claim the 1st Amendment right (actually privilege) of the Constitution of the United States (BTW, I challenge anyone to find a copy of the 1871 US Constitution online...if you do, let me know) as Google is a juristic person (i.e. an entity with rights, privileges, duties and obligations).

Just thought I'd throw this out there.  Those who are paying attention get it.

I am Chumbawamba.

Renfield's picture

It's about time you showed up!

jeff montanye's picture

yes.  these fuckwads have no idea what is coming their way when the disinflationary or hyperinflationary (i have both stock puts and silver miners) depression reasserts itself.  bad shit in any case.

karl marx had a point.  unchallenged corporate power is hideous and popular control of government can, on occasion, ameliorate things. 

but, almost too much to bear, when the costs of political campaigns for democratic election become so expensive that the powers of the government are sold for a pittance to the same hideous powers, it truly is a small but significant consolation that what remains of the marketplace gives the sad muppets a tiny countervailing force with which to modestly discipline the owners of the now utterly corrupt protectors and defenders of our constitution.

Renfield's picture

Wait, this is on the Atlantic? heh

I thought the Atlantic loved them some Bark Oblammo. Mind you I haven't really looked at it since the last U.S. elections, and can't say I really read it before, either. I'm not up these days on MSM publications. I had to check that it was indeed the Atlantic twice during the article, and reading thru some of the comments I thought I'd landed back here on the Hedge.

I guess this means the peasants really are revolting - or at least, grazing much less easily. I wonder if we'll see another 'protest' year like 2008 was. (Remember how the Bankster Bailout united the so-called 'left' with the so-called 'right', albeit the sheep promptly ran back to their respective pens for the 'election'.)

Spanky's picture

Think they might pick door number three, if... they only had a choice?

Freddie's picture

F Google!   Use or or or even

Google seems a little concerned that people will stop using their spy bot shit services.

Variance Doc's picture

+1E100  Use the alternate engines!

Go Tribe's picture

"Foreign" intelligence surveillance, eh? A new government oxymoron.

CrazyCooter's picture

Regarding Google, when this story first broke I logged into my two main GMail accounts and deleted all but 30 days worth of email. It was a big pain in the ass doing inbox, sent, and some other folders I found. Tons of Google chat history too. Purged it all. They did not make it easy, nor entirely obvious.

It was difficult at first because I always think I might need an old copy of something, but now that it is all gone I don't think it was such a big deal.

Not sure what the policy is as far as Google keeping a copy of something from 10 years ago which I delete today.



Spanky's picture

To: Cooter

From: The Google Team

re: email, chat and file deletions

Don't worry, we have backup copies stored for you.

Have a nice day!

Ying-Yang's picture

We store it in the Cloud to be sure we have transparency.

Widowmaker's picture

Goog saves your emotionally-heated auto-saves that you never sent -- indefinitely.   

Every key-stroke.

Widowmaker's picture

You are more right than I'll bet even you are aware of.

Google and the other Fascist government mammary suckers have lied to all of their clients - the ones that pay the bills.

Businesses, local governments and even people themselves are ditching these "services."  There is not a prudent business that isn't looking for a "cloud-exit" from these fucks.

You read it here first.  Whispers in small circles say numbers could get bad -- really bad.

Short all Fascist "ghost in every closet" corporations doing the bidding for Crony-terror-state Inc.

Freddie's picture

Hopefully from your lips to God's ears - brother.

I hope people start to run away from these eye spy bot shit companies.

I want to start setting up LINUX machines that don't phone home back to Redmond, Cupertino, Langley, Fort Meade, Bluffdale, Utah, San Antonio (NSA other big center) every 10 seconds.  

Spanky's picture

Aye, if ever one's sailed in pirate seas...

Spanky's picture

You read it here first. -- Widowmaker

Thanks for the tip...

Stoploss's picture

Has no one caught the question dodge by the NSA director??

He was asked: "Does the NSA have the ability to listen to average Americans phone calls and e-mails?"

The response was: " No, we do not have the authority to do that".

The question was, do you have the ABILITY?

The answer was, we do not have the AUTHORITY.

So, no answer on the ABILITY part, because they obviously have the fucking ABILITY, or we wouldn't be here right now then would we?

I have it on recording, i have watched it about 20 times. I have had other people watch it with me to confirm what was said.

When you have the ABILITY to do something, you do not need authority to .exe

kchrisc's picture

Good catch and interesting as well.

He basically said that they do not have the "AUTHORITY," and so my ears tell me that he admitted that he and all the rest involved have been and are criminally recording everyone's conversations.

Now of course, we, the people, have the authority but not yet the ability to bring the criminals to the guillotine.

mkhs's picture

They don't have the authority, so they do not infringe your rights.  Afterall, that is what Boozy Allen Hamilton is for.

DaveyJones's picture

consistent with all the whistleblowers

Freddie's picture

The other game they play is the Brits spy on American citizens and the USA spys on the Brits to get around the laws.  They obviously make the ino available to each other.

Ignatius's picture

Thanks WB7

The one weapon we have is merciless ridicule via art.

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

Information war.  And they ARE losing.

SgtShaftoe's picture

Yes, and if all else fails they could pull off a "Jericho" scenario.

An animal backed in a corner is capable of anything. 

1C3-N1N3's picture

Indeed it is an important weapon. One image can convey a vast network of themes and tie them together, many of which are digestible on the first look. Like music, art speaks directly to your core.

williambanzai7's picture


Get a load of that umbrella handle

Larry Darrell's picture

Mr. Banzai7..........I just wanted to say I appreciate your perseverance in always lightening the mood around here.  I was worried when I first discovered your last name.  Yet here you are, still around after all this time -- long after my memory (and that computer's hard drive) has been destroyed.

williambanzai7's picture

The key is to play by their rules. But play better. ;-)

BTW, it is a tremendous exercise in mental discipline to change your name to a pseudonym full time. 

earleflorida's picture

Priceless !!!      thanks,  WB7

kliguy38's picture

LMFAO.....billy bonzai.......ONE MILLION THUMBS UP

mickeyman's picture




IridiumRebel's picture

What is this term "constitutional rights" that you speak of? I am unfamiliar with this term.

Spanky's picture

Constitutional rights -- [phrase] Basic human rights once enunciated by a social contract covering a large part of North America, particularly a region formerly known as The United States of America. 

Appended to the Constitution in an effort to ratify the social contract, these rights were indirectly described as negative prohibitions on the behavior of persons elected to serve as "government" towards all those party to the contract. The original document was known as the Bill of Rights.

As it progressively fell into obscurity and disuse by citizens, "government" exceeded it's charter and expanded its power, usurping individual autonomy. Aided by self-interested commercial, corporate and wealthy interests, and abetted by citizens whom refused to exercise their power to control those whom they elected to office, the Constitution, while never formally dissolved, became a cult object subject to both veneration and derision by those under government domination.

IridiumRebel's picture

I notice no mention of "free shit".......