Last week Microsoft asked the Justice Department for permission to release information to the general public about its participation in government controlled surveillance programs, but the DOJ would not allow it. According to CNet, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith sent a letter on Tuesday to the Obama administration asking for permission to reveal details about how it responds to orders from the U.S. government for private user data.
Smith's strongly-worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday noted that there is "no longer a compelling government interest" in preventing companies "from sharing more information" about how they respond to these types of requests. Smith's letter says that this information would help "allay public concerns" about warrantless surveillance.
"The Constitution itself is suffering" from ongoing secrecy, Smith said in his letter, adding that it would take personal involvement from the President or Eric Holder "to set things right." Last week, according to Smith, Microsoft requested permission to divulge more information in an effort to clear its name, but the Justice Department "rejected" that request.
Microsoft has found itself in a bad position after a new revelation about the company's cooperation with the NSA and other government agencies came to light in The Guardian. The revelations came to light after another release of classified documents that came from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Last Thursday the Guardian reported that Microsoft has been cooperating with the NSA to make it easier for the spy agency to intercept Skype calls, encrypted Outlook.com and Hotmail messages. Microsoft has said that it does not provide wholesale access to user information, nor has it provided the government with the ability to break encryption on Skype or Outlook. The company said that it shares information on a case-by-case basis and only under existing laws or court orders that compel it to do so.
Last month Microsoft asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to disclose "aggregate statistics" regarding the number of FISA orders it receives, including orders related to PRISM. A decision on that request filed on June 19 has been delayed by the Justice Department, who said it would respond by July 9 and then asked for a new deadline extension to July 23.