Release of Yahoo dispute documents by FISA court may be delayed

DOJ said staff are prohibited from working on the declassification during the US government shutdown

By , IDG News Service |  Legal

The declassification and release of documents in a case that Yahoo believes will prove it resisted government demands for data collection will likely be delayed after the government said its staff cannot work on it during the shutdown of the U.S. government.

The shutdown came into effect on Oct. 1 after U.S. President Barack Obama and Congress could not agree on a budget to keep government agencies open.

In a filing made public on Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice said that without an appropriation of funds, it cannot meet its Oct. 25 deadline to provide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with a status report on the government's review of the documents, as DOJ attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in situations such as emergencies that involve safety of life and the protection of property.

Yahoo filed the petition for the disclosure of the documents in the 2008 surveillance case after documents released by Edward Snowden, a former contractor of the National Security Agency, suggested that Internet companies had provided real-time access to content on their servers to the agency under a program called Prism. The Internet companies have denied the charge.

In its petition in July, Yahoo asked the FISC to order the public release of the secret order in the surveillance dispute, as it would demonstrate that the Internet company "objected strenuously" to government directives. It asked the court recently to be allowed to review the declassified documents of the secret court to ensure that the release of the redacted documents did not lead to the documents being misunderstood by the public.

The court has to rule on DOJ's request for a stay on the Oct. 25 deadline and all other proceedings until Congress has restored appropriations to the DOJ.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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