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EFF Obtains Government Documents on Congressional Intelligence Briefings

December 11, 2007

EFF Obtains Government Documents on Congressional Intelligence Briefings

Records Released As Lawmakers Debate Changes to Surveillance Law

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has received a second set of records from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) detailing behind-the-scenes briefings for lawmakers working to make substantial changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

EFF requested release of the records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) earlier this year, but ODNI dragged its feet in response. Last month, a federal judge ordered ODNI to release all documents by December 10. The first batch of records, made public on November 30, detailed 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.

The second set of records contains more correspondence between McConnell and members of Congress, as well as heavily redacted versions of classified testimony delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and an FAQ detailing how the National Security Agency performs electronic surveillance. Withheld records include ODNI presentation slides used to brief Congress on foreign intelligence issues, and other classified documents.

"Our democratic system works best when citizens are fully informed about the issues being debated in Congress," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is continuing to withhold information that is central to the pending debate on proposed changes to surveillance law."

The Protect America Act expires in February, and lawmakers are working on an extension of the bill -- potentially including more power for the government to spy on Americans as well as possibly granting amnesty for telecommunications companies that participated in the warrantless surveillance. EFF's Freedom of Information Act request also asked for any documentation of lobbying activity from telecoms that are facing lawsuits because of their role in the illegal spying. However, according to ODNI, the agency located a single document on this subject -- classified handwritten notes made by an ODNI employee on a telephone message slip.

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_C0705278/121007_odni01.pdf

Part two of the ODNI documents:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode//121007_odni02.pdf

ODNI declaration explaining withholdings:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/foia_C0705278/121007_hackett_decl.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

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

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