PFAWF Asks Court to Enforce FOIA Request on NSA Warrantless Domestic Spying

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) today filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an injunction requiring the National Security Agency (NSA) to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed late last year. The complaint asks the court to enforce a request for documents related to recently disclosed warrantless wiretapping undertaken by the Bush administration.

“Our Constitution and laws protect Americans’ rights even during wartime,” said PFAWF President Ralph G. Neas. “The Freedom of Information Act is designed to help Americans understand what their government is doing. The NSA needs to comply with the law.”

Neas made clear that PFAWF’s December 29, 2005 FOIA request for information on the scope and history of the wiretap program did not seek to gain access to classified information. The request specifically stated that PFAWF would accept a list, with names of targeted individuals redacted, showing the number of people who were subjected to the surveillance in question.

Federal law requires federal government agencies to respond to standard FOIA requests within 20 business days. PFAWF filed an expedited request to which the NSA was required to respond within 10 calendar days. To date, the NSA has neither complied with nor officially acknowledged receiving the request.

“The Freedom of Information Act is clear,” said PFAWF Legal Director Elliot Mincberg, “The NSA is compelled to answer the request and release documents.”

Since being made public in a New York Times article, the NSA’s illegal domestic spying program has raised concerns from the public and members of Congress from both parties. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings investigating the legality of President Bush’s domestic spying program beginning today.

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