Justice Department Withholds Records About Purported Changes to Program
Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice today, demanding records about secret new court orders that supposedly authorize the government's highly controversial electronic surveillance program that intercepts and analyzes millions of Americans' communications.
When press reports forced the White House to acknowledge the program in December of 2005, the administration claimed that the massive program could be conducted without warrants or judicial authorization of any kind. However, in January of this year, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had authorized collection of some communications and that the surveillance program would now operate under its approval. EFF's suit comes after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning the purported changes in the program.
"While national security and law enforcement demand a limited amount of secrecy, Americans have the right to know the government's basic guidelines for this kind of invasive electronic surveillance of their personal communications," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The burden is on the Justice Department to justify its failure to disclose the information we've requested."
EFF's suit demands the immediate release of the FISC orders regarding the surveillance program and any FISC rules and guidelines associated with such orders.
Today's FOIA action is separate from EFF's lawsuit against AT&T for illegally collaborating with the government's surveillance program. That suit, Hepting v. AT&T, is proceeding in U.S. District Court in San Francisco despite the government's ongoing attempts to have the case dismissed.
For the FOIA complaint filed against the Justice Department:
For more on EFF's FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government Project:
Electronic Frontier Foundation