Why can’t the feds say when it’s supposedly legal to spy on us?

by Mark Fitzgibbons

The American Civil Liberties Union announced on December 21 that it is suing under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the federal government to expose its rules for when it hacks into people’s digital information-carrying devices such as our cell phones and computers.

The lawsuit seeks “the release of records concerning the government’s use of hacking to pursue ordinary law enforcement investigations,” which information the ACLU complains has been unlawfully withheld after the organization filed FOIA requests with eleven federal agencies. The ACLU lawsuit alleges computer hacking “tools are being used in ordinary day-to-day investigations, as contrasted with national security or foreign intelligence investigations,” and this “presents a unique threat to individual privacy.”

Nine of the 11 federal agencies that received the ACLU’s FOIA requests failed to respond, and the other two “provided cursory responses that were plainly insufficient, in violation of the FOIA,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New York. So, it seems the federal government is engaging in lawbreaking — related to other lawbreaking.

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