Over the weekend the United States government filed documents in two cases (in California's Northern District) related to NSA surveillance – for the first time revealing that its spying activities go all the way back to the days shortly after September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center by terrorists that killed thousands of people.
The documents reveal that the NSA "started systematically collecting data about Americans’ e-mails and phone calls in 2001, alongside its program of wiretapping certain calls without warrants." Even though these documents contain these powerful revelations about the NSA's long-term spying activities the U.S. government continues to evoke privilege on this information because it is "classified" and a matter of "national security." The government has used this argument countless times in various courts – with very little success – but it hasn't stopped them from continuing to try to use the tactic whenever it can.
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Legal Director Cindy Cohn had a lot to say about this latest filing from the government over the weekend – as chronicled by Ars Technica:
"The government seems to be trying to reset the clock to before June 2013 or even December 2005," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn in a statement. "But the American people know that their communications are being swept up by the government under various NSA programs. The government's attempt to block true judicial review of its mass, untargeted collection of content and metadata by pretending that the basic facts about how the spying affects the American people are still secret is both outrageous and disappointing."
The EFF also said that the government's state secrets defense argues potential documents relating to EFF claims that "NSA indiscriminately intercepts the content of communications, and their claims regarding the NSA's bulk collection of … metadata" still contain state secrets.
“Disclosing or confirming further details about these activities could seriously undermine an important tool—metadata collection and analysis—for tracking possible terrorist plots,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. wrote in a brief with the filing. Clapper claims that tactics could be revealed that would “help foreign adversaries evade detection.”
A Federal judge ruled against this claim back in July in the case Jewel v. NSA – even before Edward Snowden started leaking documents about the NSA's spying programs.
We will continue to follow these cases and brings you developments as they become available.
Source: Ars Technica