In light of the confirmation of NSA surveillance of millions of Americans' communications records, and especially the decision by the government to declassify and publicly release descriptions of the program, the government today asked the courts handling two EFF surveillance cases for some additional time to consider their options.
The first notice comes in EFF's Jewel v. NSA case (along with a companion case called Shubert v. Obama), which seeks to stop the spying and obtain an injunction prohibiting the mass collection of communications records by the government. While the Guardian importantly confirmed this with government documents on Wednesday and Thursday, we've been arguing for seven years in court that the NSA has been conducting the same type of dragnet surveillance. In the government's motion, they ask the court to hold the case in abeyance and that the parties file a status report by July 12, 2013.
The second notice comes in EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case seeking the DOJ's secret legal interpretations of Section 215 of the Patriot Act (50 U.S.C. section 1861), which was the statute cited in the leaked secret court order aimed at Verizon. Sen. Wyden and Sen. Udall have long said publicly that the American public would be "shocked" to know how the government is interpreting this statute. The leaked court order gives us an idea of what they were talking about. The government seeks a status report within 30 days of today, June 7, 2013.
In both of these cases, the government has long claimed broad secrecy. Obviously, now that the DNI and many members of Congress have confirmed those portions of the surveillance program, any claim of state secrets protection or the classified information privilege under FOIA would fail in the courts.
We look forward to discussing next steps in these cases with the government. As always, our goal is to have an adversarial proceeding in open court to evaluate the government's actions in light of the longstanding protections in the Constitution—protections which prevent general warrants that scoop up our "papers" first and sort out whether there's any basis for doing so after the fact.