EFF has big news in our long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) battle over telecom lobbying documents: the government will finally release some additional records this week.
This case started back in 2007, as Congress debated granting immunity to the telecommunications companies that participated in illegal government electronic surveillance. News reports detailed an extensive and expensive lobbying strategy in support of the controversial immunity proposals, and EFF wanted to know more. So we used the FOIA to ask for information about the behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Congress, and telecom lobbyists.
As you may remember, the government has fought for months to withhold many of these documents, arguing that they were protected by a number of FOIA exemptions, including those covering agency deliberations and other privileged communications. Last month, a district court ordered the agencies to turn over additional documents, a decision that the government has been considering whether to appeal. But on Friday, the government reported to the appeals court that it has finally given up the fight over a significant portion of the records, including communications between agencies and Congress about amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). We expect to receive the documents later this week, and we will post them on the website as soon as we can after that.
The government has said it will continue to try to block the release of additional information, including communications within the Executive Branch and records reflecting the identities of telcoms that lobbied for immunity. EFF will of course fight these efforts in court. In the meantime, we look forward to this week's documents release, and hope you will help us search through them for important information about the telecom lobbying campaign.