c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

Google on Tuesday filed a motion with the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, asking permission to publish data on national security requests that the company received.

The motion is the company’s latest move to control the public relations crisis that has resulted from revelations of government Internet surveillance. Last week, Google sent a letter to the director of the FBI and the director of national intelligence, also seeking to publish the data.

By law, recipients of national security requests are not allowed to acknowledge their existence. But with the permission of the government, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple have in the past few days published aggregate numbers of national security and criminal requests, including those authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Google has not, saying that would be less transparent than what it had already published. Since 2010, its transparency reports have broken out requests by type. If Google agreed to the terms the other companies did, it would not be able to publish the report that way in the future.

In the motion, Google argued it had a First Amendment right to publish a range of the total number of requests and the number of users or accounts covered.

Google said that its executives had responded as best they could to allegations that it had cooperated with the government, given the legal restraints. But the company said that it wanted to do more for the sake of its reputation, business and users, and for the sake of public debate.

“Google’s reputation and business has been harmed by the false or misleading reports in the media, and Google’s users are concerned by the allegations,” the motion said. “Google must respond to such claims with more than generalities.”

Other tech companies affected by the surveillance program, called Prism, have considered going to the secret court, an option that is still on the table, according to two people briefed on the discussions. Even if they are allowed to publish more detailed numbers, it would leave many questions unanswered, including details of how Prism works.