Top 10 ways Barack Obama has muzzled American media

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After US President Barack Obama entered office in 2009 pledging transparency and open government, it was a refreshing wind of change from the locked-down Bush years. The reality, however, has fallen dramatically short of the promise.

10. White House seizes phone records of Associated Press reporters
During a two-month period in 2012, the US Justice Department seized telephone records from some 100 journalists at AP offices in New York, Washington and Connecticut without providing any explanation. The government waited until May 2013 to inform the global news agency of the unprecedented surveillance, which naturally sparked a wave of consternation and not a little apprehension throughout the media world. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a letter addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder.

AFP Photo / Jean AyissiAFP Photo / Jean Ayissi

9. Emmy-award winning reporter accuses government of bugging her laptop
In her book, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” former CBS anchor Sharyl Attkisson says she was informed that one of the US government’s intelligence agencies “discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.” Further inspection of the laptop revealed classified US documents that were “buried deep” in her computer. The reason for the “plant,” according to her unidentified source, “was probably to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”

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8. News correspondent’s emails monitored
In May 2013, Fox News correspondent James Rosen was accused under the Espionage Act of possibly being a “co-conspirator” in the 2009 release of classified information on North Korea’s nuclear plans based on interviews with his Washington source. It was revealed that the US government monitored Rosen’s emails, a clandestine activity that would seem to have little in common with the spirit of a free press. The charges came at a very peculiar time. Republican Senator Marco Rubio reminded that Rosen had been aggressively reporting on the 2012 Benghazi tragedy, which saw the US ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens killed during a massive protest. “The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi.” Was not-so-subtle pressure being exerted on Rosen to back off on Benghazi?

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7. Obama’s ‘Insider Threat Program’
Following a wave of whistleblowing activities inside government agencies, an “Insider Threat Program” is being organized inside government agencies that “require all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In this atmosphere, instead of treating the disease of rampant intrusiveness of the sort revealed last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government hopes to merely hide the symptoms of its abusive powers. Since 2009, seven government employees, including Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the media. AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said some government employees have allegedly been told they could lose their jobs for talking to reporters, adding, “day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling.”

6. Obama, the stage-managed president
Editors of The Associated Press condemned the White House’s latest novelty in the field of photojournalism of handing out press release-style pictures taken by his own staff photographers. These official photographs do little to capture history and are “little more than propaganda,” according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon. Past presidential administrations were less restrictive about taking photographs, putting into doubt once again Obama’s claim that he aims for “the most transparent administration” in White House history.

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

5. Censorship
In July, 40 news organizations reminded President Obama in a letter that any attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear is a form of “censorship.” The candid communication provided a picture of the increasingly repressive atmosphere US journalists must contend with when attempting to provide coverage on stories connected to the government: “Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely: Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in September that members of the White House press-pool have complained that Obama media officials demand changes to their stories before they are disseminated to the public, allowing the White House to put a positive spin on stories.

AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb

4. Bye-bye military embeds
As the Obama administration has opened its latest military offensive, this time against the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] in Iraq and Syria, only a few photographs are trickling out of the war zone. Gone are the days when journalists were embedded in the military, documenting conflicts side-by-side soldiers as the action was happening. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from,” complained AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee.

Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)

3. Guantanamo Bay information blackout
Despite early campaign promises to close down the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center, the facility is not only still open but the Obama administration is keeping the public in the dark as the military tribunal against some 175 alleged terrorists enters its closing stages. Photo and video coverage is outright forbidden. This is strange considering that even the Nuremburg hearings against Nazi leaders – who killed far more people than Al-Qaeda – permitted the media a front-row seat at the international hearings. It is also a very unfortunate and telling footnote to the American claim that it wants to spread democracy around the world.

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)

2. Investigation against NYT’s reporter James Risen
Following the publication of James Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was hit with felony charges for allegedly revealing classified information involving Iran’s nuclear program. Department of Justice lawyer Robert A. Parker, arguing that the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist should be forced to testify in the trial of Sterling, said there’s “no [reporter’s] privilege in the first place.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen, who now faces imprisonment for refusing to identify his source. “We can only hope now that the government will not seek to have him held in contempt for doing nothing more than reporting the news and keeping his promises,” his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, told the New York Times.

AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb

1. Hunting season for whistleblowers
The Obama administration has filed seven cases under the Espionage Act, the latest one against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this June. Before Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009, there had been only three cases of the government using the Espionage Act to prosecute government officials for blowing the whistle on questionable activities. “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect,” Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security issues for the New York Times, told the Washington Post. “People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now.”

FBI director wants access to encrypt Apple, Google users’ data, demands law ‘fix’

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The FBI director has slammed Apple and Google for offering their customers encryption technology that protects users’ privacy. “Deeply concerned” James Comey wants to push on Congress to “fix” laws to ensure police can still access private data.

“It’s the equivalent of a closet that can’t be opened. A safe that can’t be cracked,” Comey, speaking at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, referred to the encryption technology calling the new service “a marketing pitch.”

“But it will have very serious consequences for law enforcement and national security agencies at all levels,” he warned.

Apple has recently presented its latest Mac OS X operating system for desktop and laptop computers, encouraging its customers to use FileVault disk encryption technology to keep their data secure. The tool would also prevent NSA or FBI from having access to phones and computers.

Google said it wanted to follow suit with its Android operating system and “encryption will be enabled by default.”

If a customer does not decline the encryption offer, his or her computer or phone will be locked.

This means that the companies will not be able to unlock a phone or a hard drive to reveal photos, documents, e-mail or recordings stored within.

“Criminals and terrorists would like nothing more than for us to miss out,” Comey said, adding that encrypted information on “a bad guy’s phone has the potential to create a black hole for law enforcement.”

“Justice may be denied because of a locked phone or an encrypted hard drive,” he said.

READ MORE: Mass internet surveillance is ‘corrosive of online privacy’ – UN report

While law enforcements would still be able to intercept conversations, it would be impossible to access call data, contacts, photos and emails.

Comey believes that “encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place,” while the companies argue that it is a necessary option that will protect customers from unlawful surveillance and private data access.

Edward Snowden’s revelations have provoked the US tech companies to find better protection for personal information.

Comey acknowledged: “The post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction—in a direction of fear and mistrust.”

“Some believe that the FBI has these phenomenal capabilities to access any information at any time—that we can get what we want, when we want it, by flipping some sort of switch,” he said. “It may be true in the movies or on TV. It is simply not the case in real life.”

The FBI director would like to see changes made to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, “enacted 20 years ago—a lifetime in the internet age.”

Companies like Apple or Google, should be required to build lawful intercept capabilities for law enforcement, Comey says.

“We aren’t seeking to expand our authority to intercept communications,” he said. “We are struggling to keep up with changing technology and to maintain our ability to actually collect the communications we are authorized to intercept.”

CALEA only covers landline and cellphone companies, broadband services or internet phone services, which connect with traditional phones.

“We also need a regulatory or legislative fix,” Comey said, “so that all communication service providers are held to the same standard.”

Comey’s speech was not the first time he lashed out at Apple and Google for encrypting smartphones. In September, he told reporters in Washington that the encrypting technology offered by the companies, powering nearly 95 percent of the smart phones in the United States, severely hinder law enforcement operations.

NYFF: EDWARD SNOWDEN DOC ‘CITIZENFOUR’ REVEALS EXISTENCE OF SECOND NSA WHISTLEBLOWER

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At the end of the Laura Poitras doc, the famed informant registers shock over another who outranks him

A second National Security Agency whistleblower exists within the ranks of government intelligence.

That bombshell comes toward the end of Citizenfour, a new documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras about NSA informant Edward Snowden that had its world premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival.

In the key scene, journalist Glenn Greenwald visits Snowden at a hotel room in Moscow. Fearing they are being taped, Greenwald communicates with Snowden via pen and paper.
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While some of the exchanges are blurred for the camera, it becomes clear that Greenwald wants to convey that another government whistleblower — higher in rank than Snowden — has come forward.

The revelation clearly shocks Snowden, whose mouth drops open when he reads the details of the informant’s leak.

Also revealed by Greenwald is the fact that 1.2 million Americans are currently on a government watch-list. Among them is Poitras herself.

And the surprises don’t end there. Near the end of the film, which received a rousing standing ovation, it is revealed that Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s dancer girlfriend of 10 years, has been living with Snowden in Moscow.

When Poitras went to Moscow in July to show Snowden an early cut of the film, she shot footage of the two cooking dinner together, which appears in the final cut.

Snowden fled to Russia after the U.S. government revoked his passport and put pressure on other governments not to grant him asylum.

After spending 39 days in a Moscow airport, Snowden was granted a one-year asylum from President Vladimir Putin. He is now in the country on a three-year residency permit.

Poitras took the stage at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall following the screening, flanked by Greenwald, with whom she partnered on a pair of explosive stories in The Guardian and Washington Post about Snowden’s surveillance disclosures in June 2014.

Also joining them was Jeremy Scahill, their partner on the website The Intercept, and Snowden’s father and stepmother. Snowden’s father thanked Poitras for having made Citizenfour, which he deemed a “wonderful piece of work.”

Poitras kept her comments following the screening to a minimum, and thanked her crew and Snowden. Instead it was Greenwald and Scahill who did most of the talking, with Scahill at one point describing Poitras as “the most bad-ass director alive, period.”

Before the screening, Poitras told The Hollywood Reporter that she will never forget the moment when Snowden — who was so young Greenwald initially doubted his authenticity — said he was willing to go on the record with his allegations.

“One of the most intense moments was when Snowden told us his identity would not remain anonymous, and I knew that somebody was really, really putting their life on the line,” Poitras said.

Spying and storing: Assange says ‘Google works like NSA’

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange equated Google with the National Security Agency and GCHQ, saying the tech giant has become “a privatized version of the NSA,” as it collects, stores, and indexes people’s data. He made his remarks to BBC and Sky News.

“Google’s business model is the spy. It makes more than 80 percent of its money by collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behavior, and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also others,” Assange told BBC.

“So the result is that Google, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ,” the whistleblower argued.

‘Google deeply involved in US foreign policy’
Google has been working with the NSA “in terms of contracts since at least 2002,” Assange told Sky News.

“They are formally listed as part of the defense industrial base since 2009. They have been engaged with the Prism system, where nearly all information collected by Google is available to the NSA,” Assange said. “At the institutional level, Google is deeply involved in US foreign policy.”

Google has tricked people into believing that it is “a playful, humane organization” and not a “big, bad US corporation,” Assange told BBC. “But in fact it has become just that…it is now arguably the most influential commercial organization.”

“Google has now spread to every country, every single person, who has access to the internet,” he reminded.

Police stand guard during a news conference by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014.(Reuters / Toby Melville)Police stand guard during a news conference by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014.(Reuters / Toby Melville)

During his interviews, Assange also touched on his own situation at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been trapped since June 2012, after being offered asylum.

The embassy is watched around the clock by British police who are ready to place Assange under arrest should he attempt to leave.

Assange said that his stay there has impacted his work, as surveillance makes certain tasks very difficult.

“The 7.3 million pounds (US$12 million) of police surveillance admitted outside this embassy. It is a difficult situation. It is not a situation that is easy for [a] national security reporter. You can’t read sources. It is difficult to meet some of my staff because of that surveillance,” he said.

“On the other hand, there are no subpoenas, there are no door knocks in the night, unlike [for] other national security reporters. So in some ways there are benefits to the situation,” Assange noted. “Other people are in more difficult situations. Chelsea Manning for example, who was sentenced last year to 35 years in prison, my alleged co-conspirator.”

Attitude shift
Assange spoke optimistically about recent changes made to Britain’s extradition laws.

“Early this year, the UK passed modifications to ban extradition without charge, to insist on if you want to speak with someone you have to come to the UK or charge them. You can’t just say, ‘I want to speak to that person and I am not willing to use any standard mechanisms.’”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) speaks as Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino listens, during a news conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014. (Reuters / John Stillwell)WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) speaks as Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino listens, during a news conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014. (Reuters / John Stillwell)

Meanwhile, the situation has also been changing in Sweden, with general elections taking place over the weekend. According to Assange, there is a shift in attitude there, which could mean a significant change for him as early as next year.

“The Swedish election was on Sunday. We don’t know yet what the formation of the government will be. It will probably be a center-left government. And there is attitude changes there. We have appeal in Sweden in just two weeks’ time.”

Assange filed an appeal against a Swedish warrant for his arrest earlier in September. His lawyers are arguing that the prosecutors are acting “in gross breach of Swedish law.”

“We argue against the district court’s decision and believe they do not properly take account of the situation,” said Assange’s Swedish attorney, Thomas Olssen, according to Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted for questioning in Sweden, for allegedly sexually assaulting two women in Stockholm in 2010.

Assange denies the allegations, but will not travel to Sweden to be questioned because he says the charges are politically motivated for his work with WikiLeaks and he will be extradited to the US. WikiLeaks enraged Washington by publishing thousands of leaked diplomatic cables in 2010.

Meanwhile, Assange has released a new book titled ‘When Google Met WikiLeaks.’ In the book, the WikiLeaks founder describes his vision for the future of the internet and recounts a meeting with Google chairman Eric Schmidt in 2011.

Intelligence Director Clapper insists he didn’t lie to Congress — but ‘misspoke’ about NSA spying

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The United States’ top intelligence official said Thursday that he’s disappointed to continuously have his integrity disputed over an unsound remark he made before Congress more than a year ago concerning the National Security Agency’s spy tactics.

Eighteen months after he told lawmakers that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect and store data pertaining to US citizens, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during an event Thursday morning in Washington, DC that he still takes heat for his infamous answer.

The gaffe in question occurred when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked DNI Clapper during an intelligence hearing in March 2013 if American citizens are immune to surveillance programs undertaken by the NSA. Although Clapper responded “not wittingly,” classified documents leaked to the media by former contractor Edward Snowden later that year proved that Americans’ communications are indeed collected by the NSA.

“It has been very disappointing to have my integrity questioned because of a mistake,” Clapper said during an event on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Dan Froomkin, a reporter for The Intercept, tweeted that Clapper complained “bitterly” of being “accused of lying.”

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The DNI’s latest remarks were made during a summit at a DC ballroom that occurred in concert with his office’s release of a new strategic plan intended to outline the intelligence community’s mission for the next four years. At that event, Clapper claimed that “the theft and leak of NSA documents and the associated loss of collection capabilities” is one of four significant factors contributing to what he called a “perfect storm” that’s eroding the intelligence community’s ability to collect details, according to Politico.

After Snowden’s leaks revealed to the world that NSA routinely collects information on the phone calls placed to and from millions of Americans on a daily basis, among other operations, Clapper wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chair of that chamber’s intelligence committee, to apologize for what he admitted to be a “clearly erroneous” response made under oath to Sen. Clapper. His answer, Clapper insisted, was the “least untruthful” response he could provide lawmakers in an unclassified hearing.

Soon after Clapper said he was sorry, though, Sen. Wyden issued a statement saying he provided the DNI’s office with a copy of his questions a day in advance “so that he would be prepared to answer.”

“[M]isleading statements by intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly,” a bipartisan group of 26 senators wrote to Clapper in July 2013, weeks after the first Snowden leaks surfaced.

According to Politico’s Josh Gerstein, Clapper said during Thursday’s event that the “perfect storm” affecting the intelligence community is forcing the US to take “more risk” as a nation.

“In many cases, we’ve chosen where we’re taking risk, cutting specific programs, stopping specific collections and declassifying specific documents. All of those are good choices, as long as we recognize that we — as a nation — have to manage the attendant risks,” Clapper said.

On his part, Snowden said previously that the “breaking point” with regards to deciding to leak classified documents came when Clapper lied under oath last March.

“[T]here is no saving an intelligence community that believes that it can lie to the public and to legislators who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions,” the former NSA contractor told a German television network in February this year. “Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realization that no one else was going to do this. The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name.”

“I think I was reading it in the paper the next day, talking to coworkers, saying, can you believe this…?” Snowden later told Wired.

Despite claims to the contrary coming from the intelligence community at large, private security firm Flashpoint Global Partners said in an analysis released earlier this month that the terror groups whose communications are commonly sought by the NSA have not altered the way they share messages.

“Nothing has changed about the encryption methodologies that they use,” Evan Kohlmann, a Flashpoint partner, told NBC last week. “It’s difficult to reconcile with the claim that they have dramatically improved their encryption technology since Snowden.”

“While we’ve made mistakes, to be clear, the [intelligence community] never willfully violated the law,” Froomkin quoted the director as saying.

U.S. threatened massive fine to force Yahoo to release data

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By Craig Timberg September 11 at 4:16 PM

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA’s controversial PRISM program.

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key — but almost entirely secret — moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually most major American tech companies complied, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown.

A version of the court ruling had come out previously, in 2008, but was so heavily redacted that observers were unable to discern what company was involved, what the stakes were and how the court had wrestled with many of the issues involved.

“We already knew that this was a very, very important decision by the FISA Court of Review, but we could only guess at why,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University.

PRISM, which was discontinued in 2011, was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year, prompting intense backlash and a wrenching national debate over allegations of overreach in government surveillance.

U.S. tech companies have struggled to defend themselves against accusations that they were willing participants in government surveillance programs — an allegation that has been particularly damaging to the reputations of these companies overseas, including in lucrative markets in Europe.

Yahoo, which endured heavy criticism after The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper used Snowden’s documents to reveal the existence of Prism last year, was legally bound from revealing its efforts in attempting to resist government pressure. The New York Times first reported Yahoo’s role in the case in June 2013, a week after the initial PRISM revelations.

Both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Foreign Intelligence Court of Review, an appellate court, ordered declassification of the case last year, amid a broad effort to make public the legal reasoning behind NSA programs that had stirred national and international anger. Judge William C. Bryson, presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, ordered the documents from the legal battle unsealed on Thursday. Documents from the case in the lower court have not yet been released.

Yahoo hailed the decision in a Tumblr post Thursday afternoon. “The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts,” said company General Counsel Ron Bell in the post.

At issue in the original court case was a recently passed law, the Protect America Act of 2007, which allowed the government to collect data on people it “reasonably believed” to be outside of the United States at the time without getting an individual search warrant for each target. That law has since lapsed but became the foundation for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which created the legal authority for many of the NSA programs later revealed by Snowden.

The order requiring data from Yahoo came in 2007, soon after the Protect America Act passed. It set off alarms at the company because it side-stepped the traditional requirement that each target be subject to court review before surveillance could begin. Rather than immediately comply, the company sued.

Central to the case was whether the Protect America Act overstepped constitutional bounds, particularly the Fourth Amendment prohibition on searches and seizures without a warrant. An early Yahoo filing said the case was “of tremendous national importance. The issues at stake in this litigation are the most serious issues that this Nation faces today-to what extent must the privacy rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution yield to protect our national security.”

The appeals court, however, ruled that the government had put in place adequate safeguards to avoid constitutional violations.

“We caution that our decision does not constitute an endorsement of broad-based, indiscriminate executive power,” the court wrote on Aug. 22, 2008. “Rather, our decision recognizes that where the government has instituted several layers of serviceable safeguards to protect individuals against unwarranted harms and to minimize incidental intrusions, its efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts. This is such a case.”

The government threatened Yahoo with the $250,000 a day fine after the company had lost an initial round before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court but was still pursuing an appeal. Faced with the fine, Yahoo began complying with the legal order as it continued with the appeal, which it ultimately lost several months later.

Efforts to reach the Justice Department for comment Thursday afternoon were not successful.

Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel and Bush administration Homeland Security official, said it’s not unusual for courts to order compliance with rulings while appeals continue before higher courts.

“I’m always amazed how people are willing to abstract these decisions from the actual stakes,” Baker said. “We’re talking about trying to gather information about people who are trying to kill us and who will succeed if we don’t have robust information about their activities.”

The ACLU applauded Thursday’s move to release the documents but said it was long overdue.

“The public can’t understand what a law means if it doesn’t know how the courts are interpreting that law,” said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s national Security Project.