Civil liberties protection in cyberspace is attracting the attention of civil liberty advocates around the world. There is a growing disharmony between national security and civil liberties protection around the world. The national security agency of United States (U.S.) has been targeting foreign nationals and organisation for e-surveillance and eavesdropping. Even malware and radio waves have been used by NSA for engaging in e-surveillance. If this was not enough, Google system managing lawful interception and e-surveillance issues was compromised by crackers.
Meanwhile, the telecom and technology companies in U.S. have been forced with gag orders to not to disclose information pertaining to national security related information requests. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been issuing the national security letters (NSLs) for long by showing national security requirements. FBI is maintaining that not only the contents of these NSLs but also the mere fact of its receipt must be kept secret by the recipient of such NSLs.
However, Google’s challenge to FBI national security letters was narrowed down by a U.S. Court. Nevertheless, Google and Microsoft sued U.S. government regarding user data requests under FISA law. Now the U.S. government has realised that this litigation can produce adverse effects for its surveillance activities.
The U.S. government and various technology companies have now decided to take a mid path. A Notice of Declassification by U.S. Government (PDF) has been issued in this regard accompanied with the Deputy Attorney General Letter Regarding New Reporting Methods for National Security Orders (PDF). A Joint Statement by Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on New Reporting Methods for National Security Orders (PDF) has also been issued. The technology companies also filed a Stipulation of Voluntary Dismissal of Action (PDF) in the Court. Thus, for the time being, the litigation has been put on hold without prejudice to the right of these technology companies to raise the issue in future.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released the following joint statement Monday:
“As indicated in the Justice Department’s filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities. Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers.
“This action was directed by the President earlier this month in his speech on intelligence reforms. While this aggregate data was properly classified until today, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with other departments and agencies, has determined that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification.
“Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data resolves an important area of concern to communications providers and the public. In the weeks ahead, additional steps must be taken in order to fully implement the reforms directed by the President.
“The declassification reflects the Executive Branch’s continuing commitment to making information about the Government’s intelligence activities publicly available where appropriate and is consistent with ensuring the protection of the national security of the United States.”