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Feds plan to release secret spy court details

September 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Obama administration will release hundreds of previously classified documents Tuesday on the nation's long-secret spy court that authorizes domestic surveillance programs.

The release of information comes after a Freedom of Information lawsuit was filed last week by Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberty group.

The Department of Justice told a federal judge in Oakland last week it was turning over the documents to partially settle a lawsuit EFF filed for access to court orders, administration memos and other information government officials relied on to design and implement a domestic surveillance program.

That program was initially revealed a decade ago by newspapers and a telecom worker who claimed first-hand knowledge of the surveillance.

The documents stretch back nine years, and focus on domestic surveillance programs from the Patriot Act.

EFF officials said they'll receive the documents in disk form and upload them to the group's website later Tuesday.

The group's lawsuit against the government seeking the documents was languishing for years until former intelligence worker Edward Snowden released detailed information about the domestic surveillance program earlier this year, reigniting public debate and prompting widespread calls for more public information about the surveillance programs and the secret federal court that authorizes them.

EFF lawyers called the Snowden disclosure a "tipping point" for the Obama administration that "forced their hand" for more disclosure.

The surveillance court, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, was established in 1978 to oversee domestic surveillance operations, and little is known about it. The court's proceedings are conducted behind closed doors, and all its rulings are considered classified. Up until now, only a few of the court's opinions have been made public.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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