Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government to be able to fully disclose to users snooping requests. (Photo:  Maryland GovPics/flickr/cc)

Twitter Sues Justice Department, FBI for Right to Reveal Scope of Government Surveillance

"Twitter is doing the right thing by challenging this tangled web of secrecy rules and gag orders," says the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer

Andrea Germanos

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in a federal court on Tuesday over what the information network says are over-restrictive laws that prevent full disclosure of the scope of government surveillance.

The suit names as defendants Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice, FBI head James Comey and the FBI, and notes, "The Snowden disclosures have deepened public concern regarding the scope of governmental national security surveillance."

While technologies companies, like Twitter, Google and Facebook, are able to issue transparency reports, those reports can only identify the number of government requests for user data in broad ranges.

"Our ability to speak has been restricted by laws that prohibit and even criminalize a service provider like us from disclosing the exact number of national security letters (“NSLs”) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) court orders received—even if that number is zero," Ben Lee, a Twitter vice president, wrote in a blog post.

And that, Lee stated, violates the company's constitutional rights.

"It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First Amendment to respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of U.S. government officials by providing information about the scope of U.S. government surveillance—including what types of legal process have not been received. We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges," Lee wrote.

Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, issued a statement that "Twitter is doing the right thing by challenging this tangled web of secrecy rules and gag orders," and said that he hopes the move will spark similar action by other technology firms.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Manchin Threatening Key Climate Provision: Reports

"To take it out is to decide that climate change isn't a problem."

Andrea Germanos ·


'Make a Gesture of Humanity': Pope Francis Urges Pharma Giants to Release Covid-19 Vaccine Patents

"There are countries where only three or four percent of the inhabitants have been vaccinated."

Andrea Germanos ·


Manchin Fumes After Sanders Op-Ed in West Virginia Paper Calls Out Obstruction of Biden Agenda

"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation," wrote Sanders. "Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin."

Andrea Germanos ·


US to Offer 'Condolence Payments' to Relatives of 10 Civilians Killed in Drone Strike

The Pentagon statement follows a call for President Joe Biden to "show real concern for civilians by taking more meaningful steps to prevent civilian casualties as a result of all U.S. lethal operations."

Andrea Germanos ·


New Filing Reveals Sinema Pads Campaign Coffers With More Pharma and Finance Funds

"This is what someone who's bought and paid for looks like."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo