“Under FOIA, courts are not rendered mere bystanders whenever the executive branch declares something classified.” — NYT motion
Today, the New York Times filed a memorandum of law in support of its motion for summary judgment in another one of my Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. This case involves a series of inspector general reports about government surveillance programs. Some were heavily classified at the time they were completed, and some were entirely classified. One is a joint report by six agency inspectors general about the National Security Agency’s Stellarwind program, which was completely withheld from the public when completed in 2009. (The “NSA inspector general report” that Edward Snowden leaked was an early draft of the NSA inspector general’s contribution to this much larger report.) Several others are Justice Department inspector general reports about matters like the FBI’s use of national security letters, the FISA Amendments Act, and Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
The government responded to the lawsuit by reprocessing and turning over newly declassified (but still heavily redacted in places) versions of these reports, which brought lots of new information to light. Here are some of the revelations:
George W. Bush Made Retroactive N.S.A. ‘Fix’ After Hospital Room Showdown
Declassified Report Shows Doubts About Value of N.S.A.’s Warrantless Spying
F.B.I. Is Broadening Surveillance Role, Report Shows
But we think there is still more that they should be required to make public under FOIA, and so we’re challenging certain continued blacked-out passages. The Times’ lawyer is David McCraw, assisted by Jeremy Kutner and Tali Leinwand, and I thank them.