Judges rule that citizens can sue the NSA for wiretapping, but not telecom companies.
The National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Update 3:30 p.m.

This just in: The director of national intelligence has released previously classified documents that detail activities of the country’s secret spy court that authorizes domestic surveillance.

The documents are now posted on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website and also on a government site. The information was released as a result of San Francisco-based EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed almost two years ago on the 10th anniversary of the Patriot Act.

As the story below noted, EFF’s lawsuit “was languishing for years until former intelligence worker Edward Snowden released detailed information about the domestic surveillance program earlier this year.” Snowden’s actions renewed public debate about government surveillance and companies that provide their users’ information, prompting widespread calls for transparency.

Original post: 

By Paul Elias
Associated Press

The Obama administration is releasing this afternoon hundreds of previously classified documents detailing activities of the country’s long-secret spy court that authorizes domestic surveillance programs.

In a court filing last week, the U.S. Department of Justice said it will turn over the documents to the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation by today. EFF officials said they’ll receive the documents in disk form and it will take some hours for technicians to upload the documents to the civil liberty group’s website later in the day.

The DOJ told a federal judge in Oakland last week it was turning over the documents to partially settle a lawsuit EFF filed for access to court orders, administration memos and other information government officials relied on to design and implement a domestic surveillance program. That program was initially revealed a decade ago by newspapers and a telecom worker who claimed first-hand knowledge of the surveillance.

The EFF’s lawsuit against telecommunication companies for allegedly participating in the surveillance was tossed out when Congress granted the industry immunity. The group’s lawsuit against the government seeking the documents was languishing for years until former intelligence worker Edward Snowden released detailed information about the domestic surveillance program earlier this year, reigniting public debate and prompting widespread calls for more public information about the surveillance programs and the secret federal court that authorizes them.

EFF lawyers called the Snowden disclosure a “tipping point” for the Obama administration that “forced their hand” for more disclosure.

Steven Aftergood, head of a project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said he hopes the documents will show how the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court operates.

In related news from the EFF…

Five new groups — including civil rights lawyers, medical privacy advocates and Jewish social justice activists — have joined a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against the National Security Agency (NSA) over the unconstitutional collection of bulk telephone call records. With today’s amended complaint, EFF now represents 22 entities in alleging that government surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act violates Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of association.

The five entities joining the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA lawsuit before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California are: Acorn Active Media, the Charity and Security Network, the National Lawyers Guild, Patient Privacy Rights and the Shalom Center. They join an already diverse coalition of groups representing interests including gun rights, environmentalism, drug policy reform, human rights, open-source technology, media reform and religious freedom.


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