Digital Rights Group Files FOIA Lawsuit on FISA and Forced Decryption

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Justice on Tuesday to learn whether the government has ever required companies to decrypt their customers’ communications through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a special court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The suit claims that DOJ is required to disclose whether it has used the secretive court’s process to compel technology companies to help them spy on encrypted communications.

If the government is obtaining FISC orders to force a company to build backdoors or decrypt their users’ communications, the public has a right to know about those secret demands to compromise people’s phones and computers,” EFF senior staff attorney Nate Cardozo said in a statement. “The government should not be able to conscript private companies into weakening the security of these devices, particularly via secret court orders.”

The lawsuit also argues that the DOJ failed to show other FISC opinions that should have been made public after Congress passed certain surveillance reforms in the USA FREEDOM Act.

“The government’s narrow interpretation of its transparency obligations under USA FREEDOM is inconsistent with the language of the statute and Congress’ intent,’’ said EFF senior staff attorney Mark Rumold. “Congress wanted to bring an end to secret surveillance law, so it required that all significant FISC opinions be declassified and released. Our lawsuit seeks to hold DOJ accountable to the law.”

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