The United States can stop Twitter to release details of government requests for user information in connection with national security investigations, a court ruledin the same week, House Republicans are to grill national security officials over surveillance.
Twitter had protested government redactions in a 2014 “transparency report” that presented a numerical breakdown of national security-related data requests from the previous year. The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed with a lower-court judge on Monday that the Justice Department had shown an “overwhelming” interest in keeping the information secret.
Based on classified and unclassified statements provided by government officials, the court was “able to appreciate why Twitter’s proposed disclosure would risk making our foreign adversaries aware of what is being monitored and what is not. is not – if any,” U.S. Circuit Judge. Daniel Bress wrote for the three-judge panel.
A Twitter lawyer has returned a request for comment on the decision to the company; a company spokesperson did not respond. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
Although the case dates back nearly a decade, the decision comes just as U.S. lawmakers and national security agencies are preparing for a deadly fight to make changes to a key surveillance program.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, described by intelligence officials as a key authority, expires Dec. 31 unless Congress votes to renew it. US agencies are using the authority to compel internet and technology companies to provide information on suspected foreign terrorists and spies.
Changes to Section 702 could include changing what companies like Twitter are required to do in response to government requests.
Former President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term in 2024, and conservative lawmakers have criticized the government’s use of FISA and other spy authorities and pledged to limit government powers affecting criminals. companies like Twitter. Conservatives also seized “Twitter files”, information posted by new Twitter owner Elon Musk about how the platform decided to handle certain politically charged news.
“Armalization” of the government
The House Intelligence Committee plans to question national security officials about US spy programs during a hearing Thursday on global threats. Also on Thursday, a House Judiciary subcommittee on the “militarization” of the federal government is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Twitter files.
The case at issue in Monday’s decision involved Twitter’s efforts to share information about two types of federal law enforcement requests against the social media company: “national security letters” for subscriber information, which would cover metadata but not the substance of electronic communications, and orders under FISA, which could include content.
“The government cannot fend off all First Amendment challenges by invoking national security,” Bress wrote. “But we must enforce the First Amendment with due regard to the government’s compelling interest in keeping our country and its people safe.”
Bress was joined in opinion by another Trump-appointed judge Laurent VanDyke and Judge Carlos Bea, appointed by former President George W. Bush.
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