EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) in 2012 seeking export license applications for "surreptitious listening equipment" submitted since 2006. This category of regulated technology is used primarily for wiretapping and EFF filed the lawsuit after the DOC released just two pages of records and withheld all other documents responsive to its request. EFF filed the suit to shed light on the government's role in facilitating exports of American-made surveillance equipment to countries with problematic human-rights records.

In responding to EFF's suit, the government made the staggering assertion that a law that had expired over a decade ago gave the government the authority to hide the records from public scrutiny. A federal judge rejected the government's position in 2013, and ordered the government to produce the applications we requested. DOC appealed the ruling and the case is pending in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.