NSA Says Request for Stay Is Not a Delay Tactic

     (CN) – Citizens challenging the government’s massive surveillance operation “have very much overreacted” to the National Security Agency’s request to stay a 7-year-old case over its wiretapping program, the government claims in a legal response.
     Earlier this month, the NSA asked a federal judge to defer ruling on the 2006 challenge to an NSA wiretapping program, citing media coverage of the government’s surveillance activities.
     “In recent days there have been several media reports concerning alleged surveillance activities, including in particular concerning an Order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” the government stated in its motion. “In response to these reports, the Director of National Intelligence directed that certain information related to the ‘business records’ provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act be declassified and immediately released to the public.”
     The government is referring to The Guardian’s revelation that the NSA forced Verizon to turn over its call data for all U.S. customers.
     But a class of citizens seeking judicial review of the NSA’s massive spying operation denounced the request, calling it the “latest attempt to delay public scrutiny, judicial oversight, and justice.”
     On Wednesday, the NSA filed a reply claiming that “plaintiffs have very much overreacted to the government’s notice.”
     “They erroneously accuse the government of seeking to delay proceedings and propose an order for further proceedings that we believe would be inappropriate at this stage,” the NSA says.
     It says the motion was prompted by “a government contractor’s unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document, not by any desire by the government to delay this litigation,” referring to former CIA contractor Edward Snowden’s high-profile leak.
     The government says it did not request an indefinite stay, as the plaintiffs allege, but simply asked for an additional 30 days “to give it time to sort out the impact of recent events on the pending state secrets assertion and file a status report.”
     The NSA also urged the court not to rule prematurely, as the plaintiffs have urged, on its assertion of the state-secrets privilege.
     “Plaintiffs do not know the details of the government’s privilege assertion, as set forth in its classified declarations,” the NSA says. “Rather than accept plaintiffs’ speculation about how recent developments have impacted the state secrets privilege assertion, the court should permit the government an opportunity to address the matter in a status report.”

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