Twitter v. NSA Lawsuit|Appears at Last Gasp | Courthouse News Service
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Twitter v. NSA Lawsuit|Appears at Last Gasp

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge said Tuesday that she will dismiss Twitter's lawsuit against the National Security Agency because of the "new landscape" created by legislation that limits government surveillance - but asked Twitter to amend its claims anyway.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said at the outset of Tuesday's hearing that she will grant the government's motion to dismiss Twitter's action, but will ask that the social networking service amend its claims.

"I understand that you have strenuously argued that the issues are not moot," she told Twitter attorney Michael Sussmann. "I disagree, having read everything. That's not to say there isn't some issue there. But I do think the landscape has changed, and the complaint needs to be changed to reflect the current landscape."

The USA Freedom Act of 2015 reinstated parts of the Patriot Act on which the government's surveillance program was based. Though it banned the bulk collection of data such as phone records and Internet searches, it allows the government to request data for a specific person. It also permits private companies such as Twitter to be more transparent about how often the feds request such information.

Twitter claimed in an October 2014 lawsuit that it received a letter from the U.S. attorney general barring it from publishing a "transparency report" on the number of surveillance requests it received. The attorney general said the information was classified and cannot be released.

Sussmann said Tuesday that despite the USA Freedom Act's alleged permissiveness, the feds are still trying to block Twitter from publishing its report, and continue to rely on the nondisclosure provisions of U.S. Code § 2709(c), which Twitter claims "remains virtually unchanged" by the USA Freedom Act.

"Twitter still wants to say more than it is being allowed to say, and defendants' application of § 2709(c) is at least part of the reason it cannot say what it wants to say," Sussmann wrote in his brief. "Significantly, defendants have not suggested that § 2709(c) no longer prohibits the speech in which Twitter wishes to engage."

Sussmann told the judge Tuesday: "We looked at what an amended [motion] would look like. The allegations would change very little. We would still make the same allegation that § 2709(c) remains an unconstitutional prohibition on speech."

Sussmann added: "Less restrictive language is not a panacea for all companies."

But Gonzalez Rogers said she wanted to start afresh.

"My view is, it's better to have it more clean than trying to assume what your theories are."

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