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NYT sues Pentagon for domestic spying documents

[JURIST] The New York Times [media website] sued the US Department of Defense [official website] Monday over the government's failure to release requested documents regarding the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. The Times broke the story last December, reporting that the government has secretly eavesdropped on domestic phone conversations without court approval [JURIST report], and requested internal e-mails, memos and names of those spied upon through the program under the Freedom of Information Act [text]. The Pentagon has not yet released the information, however, instead saying that the request is being processed as quickly as possible. The Times asserts that the Defense Department has not contended that there are "unusual circumstances" prompting the delay, which the act requires to give the government more time to respond. In a separate FOIA lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by the Electronic Information Privacy Center, a federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to produce documents [JURIST report] relating to the NSA spying program, including the guidelines used when deciding whether to monitor an individual's communications.

US President George Bush called the leak to the Times "shameful" and the US Department of Justice [official website] is investigating the potential source [JURIST report] for the story. US Democrats from the House of Representatives also asked for a probe earlier this week to investigate whether NSA activities violate the Fourth Amendment. The Bush administration claims that it has the authority to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text], which requires warrants for surveillance activities inside the US, by Congress in order to respond to the September 11, 2001 attacks and because President Bush is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Reuters has more.

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