Today the Ninth Circuit postponed a court-ordered deadline for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice to turn over documents concerning a legislative push to give telecom carriers legal immunity for their participation in the government's warrantless surveillance program.
The order comes after three unsuccessful attempts by the government to delay disclosure of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) pending the Solicitor General's decision whether or not to appeal.
In its fourth request for a stay, the government indicated that it will appeal a couple aspects of the district court's order to release the documents, namely the court's decision that the agencies must release certain communications exchanged within the Executive Branch and the identities of representatives of telecom carriers within the documents responsive to EFF's FOIA requests.
The Solicitor General has not yet decided whether to appeal other parts of the order, including the district court's determination that the government must release communications between the agencies and members of Congress. Today's order from the Ninth Circuit gives the government until November 9 to decide.
The Ninth Circuit will consider the government's appeal on an expedited schedule, with oral argument slated for the week of January 11, 2010.
The practical effect of today's order is that important documents shedding light on the telecoms' push for retroactive immunity will not be available to the public as Congress debates whether to repeal that immunity, at least until January.