The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) got its first important court victory against the National Security Agency (NSA), compelling it to grant discovery in cases of widespread surveillance.
The lawsuit, which has been dragging for 11 years, started when a former AT&T employee told the EFF that the NSA is deploying massive surveillance on its citizens.
BoingBoing explains that Mark Klein, former member of the AT&T technical staff, placed a surveillance outpost at the Folsom Street switching station in cooperation with the NSA. In 2005, Klein went straight to the EFF and revealed the agency's practices, which were not backed by any warrant or legal base.
The EFF and NSA have been battling it out in court ever since, despite repeated attempts from Department of Justice lawyers to pull the plug on the case. Their main line or argumentation revolves around the fact that the NSA's activity is secret, therefore giving the EFF no information to work with.
This finally changed with the last verdict from Judge Jeffrey White.
White wrapped up the case that was filed in 2008, ruling that the EFF gets to ask the NSA for discovery. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, let us explain.
Discovery is a crucial step in a court case, in which all parties involved will enter the courtroom with as much information as possible. This implies that all parties have to disclose relevant information to each other. Discovery is a fact-finding stage, where only self-incriminating information can remain undisclosed.
White's ruling should force the NSA to reveal documents that explain matters of domestic surveillance that the agency is being brought to court for.
For the first time a court has allowed discovery of factual evidence in a lawsuit vs NSA warrantless surveillance https://t.co/xJq9Gmnoxp
— EFF (@EFF) February 20, 2016
In EFF's announcement, there is an air of predictable excitement, and it is easy to see why. The foundation writes that until now, the NSA worked under a "cloak of secrecy," leaving it untouched by judiciary analysis.
"The EFF looks forward to finally getting to the nuts and bolts of this extremely important lawsuit," notes David Greene from the EFF.
The EFF recently listed top technology companies most likely to help the NSA continue its privacy-invasive practices. Apparently, only four of them, namely Google, Dropbox, SpiderOak and Sonic.net checked five out of five criteria that EFF deployed.
You can read more about it in our coverage.