Yahoo fight among new NSA court documents to be made public
September 13th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Yahoo fight among new NSA court documents to be made public

By Evan Perez

A new batch of secret court orders that govern the National Security Agency's surveillance programs soon could be public following major legal victories on Friday by transparency advocates.

Yahoo, which lost a battle with the government in 2008 over the legality of an NSA foreign surveillance program, will soon get its wish to have the public see the court rulings in that fight.

The Justice Department, in a filing Friday, said it now believes it can declassify much of the information in the court rulings "making possible the publication of much of the court's opinion and order."

The filing doesn't identify Yahoo by name – the government has previously claimed even the name of the company involved was secret – but people familiar with the matter and other court documents confirm it is Yahoo.

It's unclear when the documents will be made public.

The American Civil Liberties Union won a separate fight seeking to declassify secret court opinions that oversee the NSA's collection of so-called data on nearly every U.S. telephone user.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in an opinion released Friday ordered the government to review for release a set of court opinions governing the program, governed by Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The government has released other Section 215 documents in recent months, weakening the government's case for secrecy, the court said.

At issue in in the Yahoo case is a separate program known as Prism, under which the NSA collects foreign email and other Internet data as authorized by Patriot Act's Section 702.

Yahoo had challenged government demands to provide information under the program, citing incidental collection of data on U.S. residents, but the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered the company to comply with government surveillance requests.

The existence of Prism and the Section 215 programs became known after the publication of documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who remains in Russia to evade U.S. criminal charges.

The ACLU has a separate Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking documents on the 215 program, which prompted the government earlier this week to release documents showing how the NSA overstepped the bounds of its collection authority and misled the court about it.

Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, called the FISC order a rebuke of the NSA's secrecy.

"We are pleased that the surveillance court has recognized the importance of transparency to the ongoing public debate about the NSA's spying," he said.

An attorney for Yahoo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department said it wouldn't comment on either court matters.

Yahoo is part of another lawsuit against the government, along with Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

The companies are seeking to publish statistics every six months showing how many requests each company receives compelling them to provide providing content and metadata – information showing the from, to, and other basic data in communications – of their customers.

The companies say their businesses are being harmed because the government's secrecy has led to erroneous stories about their cooperation with surveillance orders.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. glennrobert

    Secrecy in government allows all sorts of political crimes to be hidden. This is true in all countries. China the perfect example is only slightly worse than the US.

    January 5, 2014 at 1:14 am | Reply
  2. glennrobert

    President Truman stated that the creation of the CIA. was his biggest mistake while in office.

    September 16, 2013 at 2:32 am | Reply
    • Jon Chinn

      Agreed, That and the NSA. BTW, the ColdWar is over so let's dismantle all these anti-democratic elements in the U.S. Government. As for FISA, let me laugh in dersion. We don't have need or want star chambers or secret courts inn this country. By definition it is illegitimate in a free society.

      Now that the spot light is on these folks, they suddenly want to be "transparent." Well, we want them GONE.

      September 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Reply
  3. Jukamatuka

    These companies should have told the courts "Not doing it, nope, don't care. no no no no no, not doing it" than released press leaks. If each on did this, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc. the government would not have shut them down, instead the people would be all over them.

    September 15, 2013 at 4:37 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Absolutely correct!
      What was done by our government was taken directly from Putin's playbook! Total control! Are we becoming another world dictatorship? Looks like it. Our big corporations need to be more careful about what they allow our politicians to do to us! "Just say NO"!

      September 18, 2013 at 8:29 am | Reply
  4. USvck

    Free Bradly Manning now.

    September 14, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  5. kevin grimes

    Thank God for Edward Snowden!!

    Of course, sooner or later this would all have come to light – and I'm sure that there have been thousands of people who've known about it all along. But thank God someone had the cojones to finally bring it to general public awareness.

    How many billions have been spent to "peek under the skirt" of all of us? How many terrorists have they caught?

    September 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Reply
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    September 14, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
  7. sdfgsdfg2345345

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    September 14, 2013 at 9:27 | Report abuse | Reply

    September 14, 2013 at 9:55 am | Reply
    • Keith from Spain

      Es usted un un retrasado cerebral.

      September 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  8. Pete

    Well done, Yahoo.
    Lets hope the new bimbo-CEO keeps up the fight for freedom.

    September 14, 2013 at 8:17 am | Reply
  9. Jim

    Great news. All these 3 letter organizations (NSA, CIA, IRS, etc) must be curtailed because they provide way too much power to whoever is in charge, which is just asking for trouble. They've already been repeatedly misused to reinforce pre-concieved (but false) notions like WMDs etc. With more technology, this will only get worse.

    Just because they wear white hats and call themselves the "good guys" doesn't mean they are or will continue to be.

    September 14, 2013 at 5:33 am | Reply
  10. Lightningstrikzz

    The NSA/CIA/DEA did illegally monitor and censor Yahoo Chat systems during 2004 thru 2011. The yahoo chat system is now defunct

    September 13, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Reply

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