Federal court rules FOIA does not apply to Guantanamo wiretaps

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Wednesday ruled [decision, PDF] that the National Security Agency (NSA) [JURIST news archive] does not have to tell lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees whether it has used electronic surveillance methods to monitor their communications. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF; CCR backgrounder ] on behalf of the lawyers in May 2007, arguing [JURIST report] that under the Freedom of Information Act [statute materials] the agency was compelled to disclose if and when the lawyers' communications were intercepted. The court rejected the Center's argument, agreeing with the NSA that the National Security Agency Act of 1959 [text] and other laws grant it immunity from this kind of request. The court said that granting such requests could expose too much of agency's operations:

If, as a matter of law, defendants are required to respond to plaintiffs' FOIA requests, they must do so no matter who is requesting the information. This might allow potential malfeasants to access sensitive information. Moreover, according to [NSA official Joseph] Brand, the accretion of progressively disclosed information 'would disclose the target and capabilities (sources and methods) of the [Terrorist Surveillance Program] and inform our adversaries of the degree to which NSA is aware of some of their operative[s] or can successfully exploit particular communications.'
AP has more.

In 2006, CCR filed a lawsuit, CCR v. Bush [CCR synopsis], seeking an injuction against the US government conducting warrantless surveillance [JURIST news archive] within the US. CCR said at the time that because there were "no safeguards put in place to ensure that attorney-client privileged communications are not being monitored, it is almost certain that confidential communications between CCR staff and our clients have been caught up in this massive web of illegal surveillance." That case is still pending [advocacy status report] and was argued before the US District Court for the Northern District of California in August 2007.

 

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