Yahoo, Google Petition Secret U.S. Court FISC to Lift Gag Orders (read docs here)

Written by Gina Smith

MS, Yahoo, Google ask secret US court FISC for right to divulge NSA data grabbed via tech companies, claim NSA harm of biz reputations. Read Google’s here … this document filed by Google with the secret court is revealing … read it here. — In an arresting development, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and other tech companies are now petitioning the secret U.S. court known as FISC (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court) to let them reveal the number of data requests they have received from government agencies such as the National Security Administration (NSA).

Google alleges in court documents that its reputation has been harmed by a government order that prohibits it from revealing these data requests, especially in light of press reports that Google, among other tech companies, is complicit in the dealings of the secret NSA PRISM electronic surveillance program revealed in June 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Google is asking the court to grant it a declaratory judgement based on its First Amendment right to share data with its customers, stockholders and the public at large.

“The U.S. Constitution prohibits censorship of the press,” said Tom Ewing, an attorney and legal commentator at He continued:

The Supreme Court time and time again over many years has thwarted the government’s efforts to gag the press prior to publication … the one exception has been national security. But even in this area, the Court only tends to approve censorship that will cause actual harm to soldiers and sailors. Here, the issue (potentially) has much more to do with embarrassing public officials. The absence of censorship is precisely what the Constitution and the Supreme Court have said are the essence of democratic debate and discussion. It’s difficult to imagine how our enemies would be emboldened merely by publication of the number of requests.”

Check out the docs below. We at are gathering all the legal documents Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and media have filed with the FISC court. If you are following the NSA PRISM flap, this makes for fascinating reading. Tech companies are seeking the right to speak about what the government is asking them to do with their data from American and foreign users. They say the government is keeping them, under penalty of prison, from divulging any data.

Google, for instance, says it is bound by “prior restraint” censorship, a type of court order typically reserved to protect military operations during war. For instance, according to this doc, FISC and the U.S. are not even allowing Google to divulge how many requests are coming from the U.S., much less what’s in them. Scroll below to see the original Google request, the Yahoo request, the amicus briefs filed by various news organizations … and more.

Google amended motion: Asking USA to let it say what data NSA asks for and gets, 9/09/13.

Below is the original Google motion. Notice that Google notes the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement(s) on First Amendment rights (to free speech, per the U.S. Constitution).

Google original declaration to ask secret U.S. court FISC (FISA) to grant it First Amendment rights to tell …

Here is the U.S. response to Google’s original request.

U.S. DOJ response to Google’s First Amendment request to divulge aggregate data NSA has asked for.

Here are amicus briefs filed by the media in support of Google’s request to just publish the aggregate of what the NSA has — or hasn’t — asked for.

Media requests to U.S. government supporting Google’s request to disclose number of NSA PRISM requests from …

Here’s an even-deeper dive. See the de-classified doc below — a court filing to the secret FISA court supporting Google and other tech companies. Interesting that, though they knew the U.S. government was blocking Google and others via “prior restraint” wartime censorship, there was little-to-no coverage of it.

aNewDomain — deep dive media amicus briefs supporting Google release of NSA requests …

And here is Yahoo’s request of the secret FISA court (FISC) — requesting same as Google. It says it wants ability, under U.S. First Amendment protections, to broadly address to users, customers, stockholders and the public at least a portion of its dealings (if any) with NSA.

Could it be Yahoo, Google, MS and others are asking this because, in fact, there have BEEN NO requests? One source deep inside one of those companies told aNewDomain when this story broke in June that tech companies as a whole weren’t aware of the NSA dealings, though the NSA PRISM slides as originally shared by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested otherwise.

Read and decide for yourself.

Yahoo’s motion to the secret U.S. FISA court (FISC) to allow it First Amendment rights to speak.


  • Just why does a free (???) society need Secret courts? There is nothing and I mean nothing that cannot be discussed in open courts. Does Star Chamber sound familiar?