ACLU sues Justice Department to spur response on surveillance info request

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After failing to provide information on its surveillance methods impacting criminal defendants, the government may be forced to contend with a lawsuit launched by the civil liberties group that requested the details.

Last Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit (PDF) against the Justice Department in a U.S. District Court in New York.

The advocacy group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request back on March 29, seeking records that would show instances where DOJ evoked the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) to glean data used in criminal prosecutions.  

“The failure of these DOJ components to process and release responsive records is of particular concern because the request relates to a highly controversial surveillance authority whose wisdom, effectiveness, and legality is a matter of intense and ongoing public debate,” the ACLU's complaint said.

“Indeed, the debate over FAA surveillance has only grown more pitched since plaintiffs filed the request six months ago. Revelations concerning the National Security Agency's interception of electronic communications pursuant to the FAA – including the emails, text messages, and phone calls of Americans – have prompted public outcry and calls for legislative reform. The public interest in the release of the requested records is substantial,” the complaint said.

Through obtaining the documents, ACLU aims to shed light on the government's checkered history of failing to notify criminal defendants monitored through FISA – a practice that has “shielded warrantless wiretapping from judicial review,” the organization alleged.

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