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EFF Argues for Release of Secret Legal Opinion on Surveillance Authority on Tuesday

PRESS RELEASE
November 25, 2013
DC Appeals Court to Hear FOIA Lawsuit Against the Department of Justice

Washington, DC - Lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will appear before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday morning to argue for the release of a secret legal opinion on the federal government’s surveillance authority. For nearly three years, EFF has sought, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the disclosure of a document produced by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that the FBI claims provides it with the authority to obtain private call-detail records in "certain circumstances," without any legal process or a qualifying emergency.

Who: EFF Staff Attorney Mark Rumold, who will be delivering the oral argument, and EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel

What: Oral argument in Electronic Frontier Foundation v. US Department of Justice (Case Number 12-5363)

When: 9:30 am (EST), Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013

Where: Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse
333 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC 20001.
US Court of Appeals Courtroom - Judges Srinivasan, Edwards, & Sentelle

Media Availability: EFF attorneys will be available for comment immediately after the hearing at the courthouse.

In January 2010, the US Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General released a report on the FBI's use of "exigent letters and other informal requests" to obtain telephone records from phone companies. The report described an OLC opinion that determined the federal government could obtain call records without legal process and without citing an emergency situation to justify the data collection. The OLC's determination appears to directly conflict with the Stored Communications Act, a federal privacy law that safeguards customer call records from disclosure to the government without valid legal process.

EFF submitted a FOIA request for the documents in February 2011, which the DOJ rejected. EFF filed its lawsuit in DC in May 2011 and appealed when the district court sided with government.

"The public has a fundamental right to know how the federal government is interpreting federal surveillance and privacy laws," Staff Attorney Mark Rumold said. "These interpretations affect wide swaths of society—the public, communications providers, and federal agencies—and the government cannot be allowed to shield its interpretations of law from public scrutiny. Secret surveillance law simply has no place in a democratic society."

Contacts:

Mark Rumold
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mark@eff.org

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

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