U.S. Dept. of Justice sued for illegal email, phone surveillance

By EFF | Last updated: Oct 3, 2012 - 4:16:39 PM

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Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a legal suite against the Department of Justice (DOJ) August 30, 2012, demanding answers about illegal email and telephone call surveillance at the National Security Agency (NSA).

The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008 gave the NSA expansive power to spy on Americans' international email and telephone calls. However, last month, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, a government official publicly disclosed that the NSA's surveillance had gone even further than what the law permits, with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) issuing at least one ruling calling the NSA's actions unconstitutional. The government further disclosed that the FISC had determined the government's surveillance violated the spirit of the law on at least one occasion, as well. EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeks disclosure of any written opinions or orders from FISC discussing illegal government surveillance, as well as any briefings to Congress about those violations.

The surveillance provisions in the FAA will sunset at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes the law. The pending congressional debate on reauthorization makes it all the more critical that the government release this information on the NSA's actions.

"As Congress gears up to reconsider the FAA, the American public needs to know how the law has been misused," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The DOJ should follow the law and release this information to the American public."

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Jewel v. NSA, a class-action lawsuit challenging the underlying legality and constitutionality of the government's warrantless surveillance program. That case is currently being briefed in federal court in San Francisco.

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The Pentagon's million-dollar propaganda networks (FCN, 03-31-2010)

Congress authorizes domestic spying (FCN, 08-19-2007)