The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder] on Monday granted a motion by Yahoo [corporate website] to declassify a 2008 FISC judgment that required the company to comply with government requests for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text]. The FISC also mandated that actual Yahoo metadata collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] pursuant to the 2008 FISC order be declassified. Monday's order, however, provides the government the opportunity to redact information it deems sensitive to national security, leading many to question [Reuters report] how forthcoming the government will be when conducting its declassification review. Yahoo filed its motion in the FISC on June 14 seeking to clear its name in the wake of allegedly erroneous media reports implicating it in recent controversies over NSA surveillance programs. FISA gives the FISC authority to order tech companies to disclose user data but prohibits publication with respect to whether the FISC has issued such an order.
Revelations surrounding US government surveillance programs have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. Last week civil liberties groups filed [JURIST report] an amicus curiae brief in the FISC supporting efforts by Google and Microsoft to publish data concerning how many times the government invoked federal law to request user information for national security purposes. Also last week a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California rejected a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit alleging the NSA illegally surveilled "millions of ordinary Americans" in the wake of 9/11. In July the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed an emergency petition [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court challenging the NSA's telephone record surveillance program. In June the Guardian reported [JURIST report] that the NSA is collecting call data from Verizon customers under a top secret court order. Also in June Several US lawmakers called [JURIST report] for a review of the government's surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring and a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward as the whistleblower in the NSA surveillance scandal. The US government has charged [JURIST report] former government contractor Snowden with espionage for leaking top secret documents, according to a sealed criminal complaint filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.