On October 7, 2014, Twitter -- an online social networking service -- filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), under the Administrative Procedure Act. Twitter, ...
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On October 7, 2014, Twitter -- an online social networking service -- filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), under the Administrative Procedure Act. Twitter, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, alleging that nondisclosure provisions set forth in a letter from the DOJ ("the DOJ Letter") and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) secrecy provisions were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Twitter also contended that the review mechanisms for seeking to modify the nondisclosure provisions violate the separation of power principles.
Following is the background:
The FBI issues National Security Letters ("NSLs") to communication providers, compelling them to disclose information deemed relevant for protecting against terrorism. The FBI also issues FISA orders based on its subsections that permit surveillance or disclosure of stored records. Recipients of a NSL or a FISA order are restricted from disclosing information of that order.
In 2013, in response to such restrictions, five communication providers (e.g., Google, Facebook, etc.) filed a lawsuit to relax restrictions for publishing information such as the total number of requests and user accounts encompassed by such requests. In January 2014, the DOJ and the five providers settled. Two preapproved disclosure formats were set forth in the DOJ Letter, which was dated January 27, 2014.
Plaintiff in this case, Twitter, has a practice of releasing transparency reports that list the number requests for account information and content removal and how the defendant responded to such requests. To date, the reports do not contain information regarding NSL and FISA orders. On January 29, 2014, the plaintiff met with the defendants and sought confirmation that the DOJ Letter (of January 27, 2014) did not apply to the plaintiff. Subsequently, the plaintiff submitted a draft report to the FBI seeking prepublication review; the draft included numeric information of NSL and FISA orders received. The FBI denied prepublication on a basis that the contained information exceeded the scope set forth in the DOJ Letter. This lawsuit ensued.
As of October 26, 2014, a summons has been issued to the defendants.David Cho - 10/26/2014