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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: December 2007

December 21, 2007

Judge Quashes Bogus Subpoena for Critic's Identity

Manalapan, NJ - A Superior Court judge in New Jersey quashed a bogus subpoena for the identity of an anonymous blogger Friday, protecting the free speech rights of a critic writing about a local government controversy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represented the anonymous blogger, known as "daTruthSquad," on a site hosted by Google's Blogspot service. After the blogger strongly criticized a malpractice lawsuit filed by the township of Manalapan against its former city attorney, the township subpoenaed Google for "daTruthSquad's" identity, as well as for any emails, blog drafts, and other information Google had about the blogger. In a hearing Friday, Superior Court Judge Terence Flynn quashed the subpoena, ruling that the blogger had a First Amendment to anonymous speech.

"We're grateful that Judge Flynn upheld the First Amendment rights of our client and recognized that anonymous speakers should not be intimidated into silence through the discovery process," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Now 'daTruthSquad' can continue to discuss township business without fear of government reprisal."

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/manalapan-v-moskovitz

Contact:

Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

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December 19, 2007

EFF Defends Anonymous Critic in New Jersey Lawsuit

Freehold, NJ - On Friday, December 21, at 10:30 a.m. ET, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will urge a Superior Court judge in New Jersey to preserve the free speech rights of an anonymous blogger facing legal threats from local government officials.

The blogger, writing as "daTruthSquad" on a site hosted on Google's Blogspot service, has strongly criticized a controversial malpractice lawsuit filed by the township of Manalapan against its former city attorney. Despite having no evidence to back up its accusation that the blogger is actually the former attorney in the case, the township has subpoenaed Google for "daTruthSquad's" identity, as well as for any emails, blog drafts, and other information Google has about the blogger.

Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse, and the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. In Friday's hearing, EFF will ask the judge to block the township's subpoena and allow "daTruthSquad" to continue to write about this or any other issue without being forced to identify him or herself.

WHAT:
Manalapan v. Moskovitz

WHEN:
10:30 a.m., Eastern Time
Friday, December 21

WHERE:
Monmouth County Courthouse
Courtroom 226-S
71 Monument Park
Freehold, NJ

Related Issues:
December 17, 2007

Senator Dodd's Efforts Result in Delay of Telecom Amnesty Push

Washington, D.C. - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that due to the contentious nature of proposals to provide amnesty for telecoms that participated in the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program, further debate on the surveillance bill in the Senate would be delayed until January 2008. Reid's announcement followed a series of speeches by Senators who spoke in strong opposition to telecom amnesty, led by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Senator Dodd's efforts included numerous citations to the evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) case against AT&T from former AT&T technician and whistleblower Mark Klein, as well as to the initial decision by federal Judge Vaughn Walker that allowed the case to proceed.

In a statement delivered on the Senate floor at the end of the day, Senator Reid spoke against proposals to provide retroactive amnesty for telecoms, saying: "I believe that it is more than appropriate to ask the courts to examine the telephone companies actions and to evaluate whether or not they acted properly."

Senator Reid also warned his colleagues in the Senate about the dangerous precedent that could result should the telecoms receive amnesty from Congress: "Providing immunity without ever undertaking such an evaluation would send a dangerous signal that the requirements we enact prospectively may be ignored with impunity."

"We applaud Senator Reid for allowing the full Senate to take the time to carefully consider the dangers of granting amnesty to the phone companies who have blatantly violated their customers' privacy for over six years. Over the holiday break we hope that many Senators will listen to their constituents who want them to stand up for the Fourth Amendment," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "But the biggest hero today is Senator Dodd, who recognized the profound Constitutional issues at stake in taking this key issue away from the courts, and refused to let it be rammed through the Senate without a fight. "

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, one of dozens of class-action suits accusing the telecoms of violating customers' rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency with this dragnet domestic surveillance of ordinary Americans.

For more on Hepting v. AT&T and telecom immunity:
http://www.eff.org/nsa

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Related Issues:
December 11, 2007

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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December 5, 2007

Latest Proposal Undermines Goal of Letting the Courts Rule on 5+ Years of Companies' Illegal Wiretapping Violations

Washington, D.C. - Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up a bill introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would substitute the government for the phone companies in all current litigation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), co-lead counsel in the nearly 40 pending lawsuits against the major telephone carriers, strongly believes that Congress need not and should not grant amnesty for providing the National Security Agency (NSA) with the full content of billions of their customers' emails, text messages and Internet-carried phone calls.

"While EFF appreciates the attempt by Senator Specter to craft a compromise to save the litigation, the bill contains serious flaws that undermine the goal of allowing the courts to decide whether the carriers and the president broke the law when they engaged in over five years of warrantless surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Given the gravity and unprecedented complexities of the issues raised by the carriers' demand for amnesty, Congress should not be rushed into action by an arbitrary deadline and should instead take the time to carefully consider Senator Specter's proposal as well as others."

Prior to the Thanksgiving break, Senator Specter had the right idea when he said: "I don't think Congress can stand by, and in the face of what has happened, give carte blanche, a free ticket, grant retroactive immunity to suggest to future administrations that they can ignore separation of powers and they can ignore Congressional oversight and just run roughshod over the entire process without being held accountable. The better practice is to allow judicial proceedings to take their course and let the courts make their own determinations."

"The Judiciary Committee's instincts before Thanksgiving to separate out the substantive changes to FISA -- which are tied to the sunset of the Protect America Act in February, 2008 -- from the question of amnesty were correct," said Cohn. "Before tens of millions of Americans and their legitimate claims are kicked out of court, Congress owes the American people a transparent process -- not a few weeks of pressured consideration and a single public hearing by the Committee charged with protecting the Bill of Rights."

The "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Substitution Act of 2007," introduced on December 3 by Sen. Specter, addresses one important problem regarding damages if the plaintiffs' case is proven. Regrettably, however, it falls short. Specifically, the new Specter substitution bill:

* Would require the plaintiffs to change their legal claims from those against telecoms to claims that can only be made against the government, paradoxically making the lawsuits more likely to trigger national security concerns even as they slant the playing field sharply in favor of the government

* Could empower the government to kill the litigation by asserting legal privileges that the government alone possesses

* Would dramatically and prejudicially limit the plaintiffs' current rights to discovery and other key procedural rights critical to getting at the facts about the telecoms' ongoing violations of multiple Congressional privacy statutes, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). These statutes specifically require telecoms to say "No" to an overreaching Executive Branch when it demands warrantless and illegal access to customers' private calls and call records.

"Although regrettably we cannot support Sen. Specter's new bill, we applaud his serious efforts and his fundamental approach to this issue," said Cohn. "We couldn't agree more with his bottom line on telecom amnesty and hope that every senator will take this to heart as FISA reform makes its way to the Senate floor this year or next."

For more on the telecom lawsuits:
http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying

Contacts:

Kevin Bankston
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
bankston@eff.org

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Related Issues:
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