Court Keeps White House Spy Docs Secret

February 11th, 2010

Via: Wired:

A federal appellate panel on Tuesday blocked a court order requiring disclosure of e-mail between the White House, Justice Department, National Security Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence — communications that paved the way for new spy legislation.

The 2008 messages were a precursor to legislation that year to kill litigation against the nation’s carriers for funneling Americans’ communications to the National Security Agency without warrants.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a California judge who ordered disclosure of those e-mails and the names of telco company lobbyists who pushed for the legislation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights group in San Francisco, sought the e-mail and lobbyist information under a Freedom of Information Act claim.

The EFF wanted the data, which could shed light on the behind-the-scenes machinations of how the legislation was passed that nullified its lawsuit. The suit accused the carriers of being complicit in providing Americans’ electronic communications to the NSA.

The San Francisco-based appeals court, hearing the FOIA case at the request of the Obama administration, ruled U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White failed to determine whether the information should be kept secret for national security reasons.

The decision comes two weeks after President Barack Obama said during his first State of the Union address that “it’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or Congress.”

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