The Senate on Tuesday evening rejected a bill curbing the National Security Agency’s data-gathering powers, a blow to Microsoft and a coalition of technology giants that had asked Congress to restrict the spy agency’s programs.
Microsoft, along with Apple, Google and a host of technology companies, posted an open letter this weekend urging the Senate to vote to limit the NSA’s ability to gather bulk Internet and phone data. But in a vote largely along party lines — with Democrats voting yes, and Republicans, weighing in shortly after their victory in this month’s elections, opposed — the measure was rejected.
U.S. technology firms have been major players in the public debate following Edward Snowden’s leaks last year showing that the U.S. government intelligence apparatus was gathering more data than previously disclosed. The storm has damaged the business interests of companies like Microsoft, as private-sector customers and governments foreign and domestic worried about the security of their data.
In a letter signed earlier this year by Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella and several of his peers, essentially a large portion of the U.S. technology establishment, said:
“Confidence in the Internet, both in the U.S. and internationally, has been badly damaged over the last year….We urge you to ensure that U.S. surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight.”
A Microsoft spokeswoman said Tuesday evening that the company didn’t have any immediate comment.
Microsoft and the group of technology companies pushing for restrictions on the NSA’s activities released a brief statement on Wednesday:
While we are disappointed in the Senate procedural vote, we saw last night a bipartisan commitment to address surveillance reform in the future. We will continue to work with both parties in Congress, the Administration and civil liberties groups to ensure that meaningful reforms that protect national security and individual rights are considered.