San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won another battle against the government Friday over the release of information about a campaign to change federal surveillance law.
A federal judge ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to provide to EFF by April 21, 2008, records about telecom industry lobbying of their offices.
Congress is currently considering granting immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in unlawful electronic surveillance on millions of ordinary Americans as part of changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Officials at the DOJ and ODNI have been vocal supporters of the immunity proposal. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), EFF asked the DOJ and ODNI for any documents reflecting telecom carriers' efforts to avoid legal responsibility for their role in the government's surveillance operations, but the agencies failed to comply with EFF's requests.
"We went to court over the release of these documents because they could play a critical role in the national debate over telecom immunity. Denying Americans access to this information is not only unconscionable, but also illegal," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "We're pleased the judge recognized that time is of the essence here and ordered these agencies to follow the law."
In November, another federal judge ordered ODNI to comply with a similar EFF request. Documents released as a result of that case detailed high-level battles over changes to FISA, featuring key members of Congress and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.
EFF also 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 widespread domestic surveillance. There are nearly 40 legal cases that have arisen from the warrantless surveillance currently pending in the Northern District of California courts.
For the judge's full order:
For more on EFF v. ODNI and DOJ:
For more on Hepting v. AT&T:
Electronic Frontier Foundation