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EFF Obtains Documents Detailing High-Level Battles Over Surveillance Law

PRESS RELEASE
November 30, 2007
Records Posted on EFF's Website

San Francisco - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) received the first of two batches of records from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) concerning the Administration's attempts this past summer to enact the Protect America Act and eviscerate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The records reveal new details about the contentious negotiations between Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and members of Congress that resulted in the passage of the Protect America Act -- an expansion of spying powers that undermined the Constitution and the privacy of Americans. In one letter, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV claims that McConnell made "assurances" and "agreements" that were not carried out, and says, "I and others involved in these important and intense FISA negotiations are left to question whether the negotiations were carried out in good faith or whether your commitments were overruled by others at the White House or within the Administration." Senator Sheldon Whitehouse also expressed "deeply felt displeasure with the administration's legislative strategy on the recent 'FISA Fix'" and says that the Protect America Act was passed "at a substantial price, one that will be paid in rancor, suspicion and distrust."

"These documents give Americans a unique inside look at high-level discussions about how a controversial -- and critically important -- change to the law occurred," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "A Senate vote on more changes to FISA is just weeks away, and these records could not be more relevant to the ongoing debate on these issues."

EFF sued for the release of the records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) earlier this year, demanding documents concerning briefings, discussions, or other contacts ODNI officials have had with representatives of telecommunications companies or members of Congress about amending FISA. Today's 250-page disclosure focuses on communications between ODNI and members of Congress but includes no information about the telecom industry's lobbying efforts. A federal judge ordered ODNI to release the rest of the relevant documents by December 10.

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.

Part one of the ODNI documents:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/113007_odni01.pdf

Part two of the ODNI documents:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/113007_odni02.pdf

For more on EFF v. ODNI:
http://www.eff.org/issues/foia/cases/C-07-05278

Contacts:

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

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

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

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