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EFF Drops Case Against DOT Over Drone Records

(CN) - Digital-privacy watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed Friday to drop its FOIA case against the Department of Transportation following the government's 700-page release on the use of drones by border patrol agents.

EFF sued the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Transportation in separate filings in 2012 for information on, among other things, the policies that the department and its Customs and Border Patrol component had in place for domestic surveillance by unmanned aircraft.

Litigation freed up three years of redacted "daily reports" that revealed that DOT had arranged more than 500 flights for dozens of law-enforcement organizations, and that more than a fifth of these flights helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement, EFF said.

In the watchdog group's case against the Department of Homeland Security, the government characterized EFF's victory as "limited," and said the group's only victory was in clearing "administrative backlog."

Last month, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton awarded EFF just $7,936 for fees and costs, a small percentage of its requested $101,625.

"Plaintiff makes no attempt to distinguish the fees incurred in connection with the initial filing of the complaint, versus the fees incurred later in the case, including the fees associated with its largely unsuccessful motion for summary judgment," Hamilton said.

While one set of documents was released after the filing of the summary judgment motion, nothing besides timing links the motion as a catalyst for the documents' release, the order stated.

EFF "seemingly fails to acknowledge that nearly all of the arguments made in its motion were rejected by the court," Hamilton said.

The nonprofit's case against DHS remains open.


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