Secret U.S. surveillance court suspends Silicon Valley lawsuits until government shutdown ends

Summary:The secretive court suspends operations until the government ends its shutdown. A number of Silicon Valley tech companies are battling the court for data disclosure transparency.

Image: Justice Dept.

It's bad news for Silicon Valley tech giants that are fighting on behalf of their users to disclose crucial data requests by the U.S. government, as the case grinds to a halt amid the government shutdown.

In a published filing, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) granted a motion holding off on any continued litigation, because attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department are not yet allowed to return to work.

The court said that active litigation will be put on hold until attorneys with the Justice Dept. "are permitted to resume their civil litigation functions and consult with [the tech companies'] access to classified information." 

It follows an earlier request by the Justice Dept., submitted to the FISC on Monday.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, among others, are battling with the U.S. government in regards to its massive surveillance programs, which were disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in June. 

The companies are trying to prove that  they were forced to disclose user and customer data  to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and that it was not acting voluntarily or in collusion with the intelligence agency  as initial reports suggested . Along with that, many companies outside the big named four are also trying to force the government to allow them to disclose full figures relating to requests for user data.

But as a result of the government shutdown, the court is shutting its doors. 

Here's the short and sweet filing from the secret court.

Topics: Government : US


Zack Whittaker is a writer-editor for ZDNet, and sister sites CNET and CBS News. He is based in the New York newsroom. His PGP key is: EB6CEEA5.

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