As part of a nearly three-year-old Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice was ordered by a federal court Friday to turn over copies of 10 memos that provided the legal underpinnings for President Bush’s domestic surveillance program.
The memos, written by the Office of Legal Counsel, will be reviewed privately by the court.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Security Archive, filed the lawsuit in 2005 after their FOIA request was denied. They sought records "regarding the former policy of the Bush Administration to conduct . . . surveillance of domestic communications without the prior authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," according to court documents.
Friday’s ruling by federal Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, included summary judgments on the remaining 20 documents in dispute — effectively keeping them from the public eye forever due to their potential threat to national security.
"The court will not second-guess a determination that disclosure of documents would harm national security so long as the agency’s declarations provide sufficient detail that the material ‘withheld is logically within the domain of the exemption claimed,’" wrote Kennedy, quoting earlier precedent.