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EFF Uses FOIA Sues DOJ For Electronic Surveillance Program

February 27, 2007

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice today, demanding records about secret new court orders that are said to authorize the U.S. Federal Government's  electronic surveillance program that intercepts and analyzes millions of Americans' communications.

The program's existence was first alleged in press reports that started to leak out in December, 2005. At the time, the Justic Department claimed that the program could be managed without court orders or warrants. Last Month Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) had authorized collection of some communications and that the surveillance program would now operate under its approval.

EFF said today that its suit comes after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records concerning the purported changes in the program.

"While national security and law enforcement demand a limited amount of secrecy, Americans have the right to know the government's basic guidelines for this kind of invasive electronic surveillance of their personal communications," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The burden is on the Justice Department to justify its failure to disclose the information we've requested."

EFF is asking for the  release of the FISC orders regarding the surveillance program and any FISC rules and guidelines associated with such orders.

The group said its FOIA action is separate from itslawsuit against AT&T for illegally collaborating with the government's surveillance program. That suit, Hepting v. AT&T, is underway in U.S. District Court in San Francisco despite the government's ongoing attempts to have the case dismissed.

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