[JURIST] The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] filed a complaint Tuesday against the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking the release of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder] order that authorized government surveillance of transmissions coming into or going outside of the country where one party was suspected of association with a terrorist organization. The EFF filed their complaint under Section 552(a)(4)(B) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which grants the federal court "jurisdiction to enjoin the agency from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant." The EFF complaint [PDF text; press release] alleges that the DOJ denied the EFF's January 23, 2007 FOIA request seeking:
copies of all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court...orders referenced by the Attorney General in his letter to Sens. Leahy and Specter, and all FISC rules and guidelines associated with such orders and/or referenced by Mr. Snow in the January 17 press briefing.Gonzales revealed the existence of the FISC order [JURIST report] in January through a letter [PDF text] to Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which Gonzales announced that Bush administration will submit all domestic surveillance requests to the FISC for review and approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FAS materials]. While maintaining the legality of the NSA domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], Gonzales said in the letter that the President will not reauthorize the program when its current authorization expires, and will instead submit all surveillance requests through the FISC. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.
The EFF sued AT&T [JURIST report; EFF backgrounder] in January 2006, alleging that the company had unlawfully provided the National Security Agency (NSA) with access to its facilities and resources to unconstitutionally spy on "millions of ordinary Americans." The DOJ moved to dismiss the case in July, citing "state secrets" among other concerns. A federal judge denied the motion [JURIST report] and ruled [order, PDF] instead that the case can proceed safely because broad media coverage of the surveillance program had neutralized any danger of disclosing state secrets. In early November, the Ninth Circuit agreed to hear an appeal [JURIST report] of the decision.