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Federal judge slams government response to FOIA requests on surveillance program

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday ordered [PDF opinion; press release] the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Legal Counsel, and the office of the Attorney General to submit more information to the court in support of their motion for summary judgment in a consolidated lawsuit seeking the release of documents related to the government's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. In the opinion, US District Judge Henry Kennedy said that in order to conduct a meaningful review of the government's denial of the plaintiff's requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text], the government must do more than simply conclude that the requested documents are confidential:

While the court is certainly sensitive to the government's need to protect classified information and its deliberative processes, essentially declaring "because we say so" is an inadequate method for invoking Exemption.
The court is considering a consolidated lawsuit originating from FOIA requests filed by several privacy advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center [JURIST report; advocacy website], the Electronic Frontier Foundation [JURIST report; advocacy website], and the National Security Archive [organization website].

Judge Kennedy refused to review the disputed documents in camera and requested that the government resubmit its reasons for claiming that certain requested documents fall within one of the FOIA exemptions. AP has more.

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