Silicon Valley has backed President Barack Obama with votes and dollars. It's time the president said thanks.

He can begin by supporting Yahoo's wish to disclose its efforts to protect consumers from government surveillance.

Peoples' trust in Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other companies that collect user data depends largely on the belief that privacy is reasonably protected. Obama should support letting the public see arguments they made showing this concern before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Yahoo told Mercury News reporter Brandon Bailey last week it had "objected strenuously" in a 2008 case that led tech companies to cooperate with controversial data-gathering. Americans should know if Yahoo tried to protect consumers' interests. Today, the impression is that tech companies simply caved to government demands.

If Obama believes the surveillance programs he supports are critical to Americans' safety, he needs to be the Educator in Chief. He needs to help people understand what they accomplish. Having said in San Jose xxxx weeks ago that he welcomes a debate on this, he needs to lead it.

Protecting Americans from terrorists is a duty of the president, but we know the federal government is prone to excess. J. Edgar Hoover is not so long gone.

It's increasingly clear that the secret court system is seriously flawed, as James Robertson, a former federal district judge on the FISA court from 2002-2005, agrees.

Since 2009, the federal government has made 5,141 warrant requests. Only one was denied. One. The court can only be seen as a rubber-stamp for government spying.


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Robertson identifies the flaw: The court only hears arguments from government lawyers. Attorneys representing the public's interest, the right to privacy, are not present. National security may be at stake, but if a pool of federal judges can be trusted with reviewing warrant requests, then shouldn't lawyers with security clearances be able to argue on behalf of those to be under surveillance?

Secrecy can be crucial when national security is at stake., but the process the government uses to guarantee Americans' safety should be transparent. And the debate over what is appropriate and what is not, particularly when there is disagreement between the government and the private companies that have information the government wants, should be public.

Valley companies need to be more transparent about what they do with consumer information in general. But they, and the government, need to be particularly transparent about how information they gather may be used by government agencies. President Obama should support this, both as the right thing to do and as the way to promote trust in the industry that is leading the way out of the Great Recession.