But as public outrage from the Snowden disclosures continues, that’s changing, he said.
“I’d say the surveillance community has an established party line that, at the beginning, seem to give them the upper hand in terms of PR and politics, but I think the trend line is clearly moving toward more reform,” Black said. “There’s been a steady erosion of earlier blind support for the intelligence community.”
This could leave some room for changes that would help appease technology companies.
If Congress were to consider a more limited overhaul, it could start by creating more privacy protections for foreigners, or allowing companies the freedom to disclose more about the intelligence requests they receive, which could be an easier sell politically.
“Technology companies would like greater disclosure because they feel it shields them better if there’s a backlash,” West said.
The industry realizes that its records are of great use to law enforcement and intelligence, Black said. For years, companies have faced an escalating amount of demands for information from everyone from attorneys general to divorce lawyers. The problem with intelligence requests, he said, is that the industry is barred from talking about them, even in general terms.
“On the national level, the secrecy involved also makes it particularly frustrating because you are handcuffed in your efforts to resist requests,” Black said.