A group that advocates privacy
rights said on Wednesday it planned to sue the Justice
Department to win the public release of documents related to
President George W. Bush's domestic eavesdropping program.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, is the
latest of a number of civil liberties organizations to take the
federal government to court over the domestic spying program,
which has caused an outcry among Republicans and Democrats
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for
Constitutional Rights filed separate lawsuits on Tuesday,
challenging the highly classified program that allows the
National Security Agency to monitor U.S. citizens'
international telephone and e-mail messages without first
EPIC said it would ask a federal district court in
Washington on Thursday to order the release of related Justice
Department documents that the government has failed to disclose
under the Freedom of Information Act.
The 1966 FOIA law sets out procedures that allow the public
to request the release of government documents and records.
EPIC submitted FOIA requests with four Justice Department
offices including the Office of the Attorney General after the
New York Times first reported the existence of the warrantless
surveillance program on December 16.
The Justice Department said it responded quickly to EPIC's
requests by agreeing to expedite the FOIA process. "The
department continues to work in an expedited manner to meet
this request," Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.
The Washington-based group contends that the Justice
Department has played a key role in authorizing, implementing
and overseeing the NSA program.
"The Administration has confirmed the existence of the
program, but released very little information that sheds light
on the key question (of) whether the government is acting
illegally," EPIC general counsel David Sobel said in a
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it
illegal for the U.S. government to spy on Americans in the
United States without first getting approval from a secret
The program's existence has been acknowledged by Bush and
defended by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is scheduled
to appear at a February 6 hearing on the program before the
Senate Judiciary Committee.
Records sought by EPIC include an audit of the NSA program,
a "checklist" guide used to determine whether an individual's
phone or e-mail messages could be monitored, documents showing
how information gleaned through eavesdropping had been used,
and other legal opinions about the program.
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