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EFF Wins Fast-Track Release of Telecom Lobbying Records

Judge Cancels Friday Hearing, Orders Government to Comply by December 10
PRESS RELEASE
November 28, 2007
Judge Cancels Friday Hearing, Orders Government to Comply by December 10

San Francisco - Late Tuesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won the speedy release of telecom lobbying records from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The agency was ordered to comply with a new December 10 deadline -- in time for the documents to play a role in the congressional debate over granting amnesty for telecommunications companies taking part in illegal electronic surveillance. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston vacates a hearing on the matter previously scheduled for Friday.

"We are pleased Judge Illston recognized that time was running out for these documents to make a difference in the legislative debate. She agreed that the Administration is dragging its feet in making relevant information available and stressed that the public has a right to full disclosure before Congress acts on the pending telecom amnesty proposals," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The court's order confirms our belief that aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act is needed to challenge government secrecy."

EFF sued for release of the documents after ODNI's slow response to EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to disclose information about any telecom lobbying activity. In the meantime, debate in Congress heated up over proposed changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including proposals aimed at letting telecoms off the hook for their role in warrantless spying on millions of ordinary Americans.

"The full Senate could start debate on amnesty for telecoms as soon as the first week in December," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "We look forward to making the records public and discovering what light they can shed on this very important issue."

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in domestic surveillance. The Hepting case is just one of many suits aimed at holding telecoms responsible for knowingly violating federal privacy laws with warrantless wiretapping and the illegal transfer of vast amounts of personal data to the government.

For the full order from Judge Illston:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/eff_v_odni_order.pdf

Contacts:

David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
sobel@eff.org

Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org

Kurt Opsahl
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
kurt@eff.org

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