EFF in the News
“Somehow, they convinced the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is supposed to prevent this from happening, that you cannot do this kind of data-mining without all the records, so all the records are relevant,” says Lee Tien, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit privacy-rights group based in San Francisco. “It’s hard to believe. How can you use a statute that has a ‘relevant’ standard to do a blanket collection?”
When a panel of federal judges from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the NSA's bulk-phone records spying program was illegal, it was a legal game-changer, but what, exactly, does it all mean? The Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal analysis is the best, easiest-to-understand and most comprehensive article I've yet seen on the ruling.
“That’s exactly why they’re making it secret—Obama’s response to critics was, word for word, ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about,’” Maira Sutton, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s global policy analyst, told me. “And yes, we don’t know exactly what we’re talking about, because it’s secret. For them to say that these rules are legitimate as they’re being negotiated in secret, with disclosures to corporate advisors who can see and comment on the text, we cannot trust that what is in there is in the public interest.”
But David Greene, the civil liberties director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, countered he disagreed with Hoekstra on Snowden, but that the more important point was that the appeals judges ruled the National Security Agency had acted without congressional authority.
"This is not the first time we heard this," Greene said. He noted that the Patriot Act, which Congress passed in 2001 and is due for reauthorization next month, "did not intend to give the NSA the ability to do this type of mass, bulk surveillance of people who were not suspected of doing anything wrong."
"If you want to get mad at Snowden because now we all know about that, then go ahead," Greene said. "But the important thing is now that we know about it, now it's been subject to judicial review ... and it's been declared to be unlawful and unauthorized."
Electronic Frontier Foundation welcomed the decision by the New York court.
"The 2nd Circuit rejected on multiple grounds the government's radical reinterpretation of Section 215 that underpinned its secret shift to mass seizure and search of Americans' telephone records," said Cindy Cohn, executive director of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Cory Doctorow wears a lot of hats.
Doctorow describes himself as a science fiction author, blogger and technology activist. In the last, he is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for freedom in technology law. But it is his role as author which brought him to Memphis in March.
“Unfortunately, people are used to their computers telling them ‘I’m sorry you can’t do that,'” explains Mitch Stoltz, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But when it’s your coffee maker or your car saying ‘I’m sorry you can’t do that,’ that strikes people as very strange.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) had sued those law enforcement agencies to gain access to one week’s worth of LPR data as a way to better understand this surveillance technology. After losing in Los Angeles Superior Court last August, the EFF and ACLU SoCal appealed; the court’s decision was handed down on Wednesday.
“It's already a huge violation of privacy to have the contents of phone calls captured,” Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Nadia Kayyali said on Wednesday....Kayyali, however, argued that the United States needs greater oversight of NSA activities given that many of the leaked and published documents do not indicate the authority under which the Agency conducts its surveillance programs.
Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the appeals court ruling is "a great and welcome decision and it ought to make Congress pause to consider whether the small changes it’s making in the USA Freedom Act are really sufficient.”
Cohn participated in oral arguments supporting Klayman’s win and has been involved with a third appeal against the collection in the 9th Circuit. She's pleased the decision “rips apart the government’s interpretation” of words such as “relevance” and “investigation” under Section 215.
“I don’t think that Congress alone giving an endorsement to these words would be sufficient under the court’s analysis,” she says. “I think Congress would actually have to say very clearly what it was doing in order to get over that and then the question is whether that would survive [constitutional analysis].”