The U.S. Justice Department is hiding information about dragnet collection of data from a transparency lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Spencer Ackerman writing for the Guardian reports,
US attorney Preet Bharara of the southern district of New York informed the ACLU in a Friday letter that the government would not turn over “certain other” records from a secret surveillance court, which are being “withheld in full” from a Freedom of Information Act suit the civil liberties group filed to shed light on bulk surveillance activities performed under the Patriot Act.
The decision to keep some of the records secret, in the thick of Edward Snowden’s revelations, has raised suspicions within the ACLU that the government continues to hide bulk surveillance activities from the public, despite US president Barack Obama’s Friday concession that controversial National Security Agency programs have “never been subject to vigorous public debate”.
The government appears eager to avoid disclosures that have already been forced by civil rights lawsuits. Ackerman explains,
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The ACLU lawsuit, like others filed by civil liberties groups, has resulted in a trove of documents from the so-called Fisa court detailing the scope, authorizations and, in some cases, violations surrounding NSA surveillance ostensibly occurring under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
The government's move has left the ACLU wondering what officials are not revealing. Ackerman reports,
Alexander Abdo, an ACLU attorney, noted that the government’s bulk surveillance disclosures have yet to include, among other efforts, a reported CIA program to collect international money transfers in bulk, revealed in November by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
“It appears that the government is concealing the existence of other bulk collection programs under the Patriot Act, such as the CIA’s reported collection of our financial records,” Abdo said.