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Federal court rules NSA can withhold details of domestic wiretapping

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [PDF text] Monday that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] can withhold documents and information relating to its Terrorist Surveillance Program [JURIST news archive; US DOJ fact sheet, PDF] requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the People for the American Way [advocacy website], which sought information about the program's review process and lists of individuals and organizations that the NSA had subjected to electronic surveillance without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [official website]. Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle held that the NSA's refusal was justified under FOIA exception (b)(1), when an issue is "in the interest of national defense," and under exception (b)(2), when "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute." In the latter case, the court concluded that the National Security Agency Act of 1959 [text] and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 [text] satisfied the statutory exemption provision. AP has more.

The ruling comes a few days after US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attacked critics [JURIST report] of the program. The administration is currently appealing a ruling by US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the initiative is unconstitutional. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the program could continue [JURIST report] pending the appeal process.

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