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EFF Obtains Records from Behind-the-Scenes Negotiations on Telecom Immunity

November 12, 2009

EFF Obtains Records from Behind-the-Scenes Negotiations on Telecom Immunity

Partial Document Release from Government Posted on EFF's Website

San Francisco, CA - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted thousands of pages of records detailing behind-the-scenes negotiations between government agencies and Congress about providing immunity for telecoms involved in illegal government surveillance.

The documents include drafts of legislation and communications between Congress and the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) about amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). They were released as a result of litigation that started back in 2007, when Congress first debated granting immunity to the telecommunications companies for taking part in massive, unchecked surveillance of Americans' telephone and Internet communications. EFF used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request information about communications between the DOJ, ODNI, Congress, and telecom lobbyists.

"The government has finally given up its battle to hide this information from the public and has released a significant portion of the records we've been fighting for," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "We hope that these files include some answers about what happened when the DOJ and ODNI pushed Congress to pass the law getting telecoms off the hook for their role in illegal government surveillance."

The government has said it will continue to try to block the release of additional documents, including communications within the Executive Branch and records reflecting the identities of telecoms involved in lobbying for immunity. The government's appeal will be heard before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2010.

"This case isn't over yet -- there's still more information about the extensive lobbying campaign by the telecoms that helped them get immunity last year," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "The government continues to hide important documents from the public."

FOIA Release: Draft legislation to amend FISA:
http://www.eff.org/fn/directory/4800/360

FOIA Release: Correspondence about amending FISA, bill summaries, and other documents:
http://www.eff.org/fn/directory/4800/359

For more on this case:
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

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