THERE MAY BE HOPE YET

The Supreme Court is going to look into the government’s assertion it can shut down all wi-fi for whatever reason they deem necessary:

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), an independent non-profit research center and high-profile privacy and freedom of information advocacy group, announced yesterday that it filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to review the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s February 2015 judgment permitting the Department of Homeland Security to withhold releasing substantially all of a secret protocol that governs the shutdown of wireless networks in emergencies.

In a written statement about the litigation, EPIC President and Executive Director Marc Rotenberg commented, ”[t]he secret DHS policy to shut down cell phone service threatens public safety, open government, and First Amendment freedoms. EPIC has been seeking its public release for over four years. Now we are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court after an earlier victory was overturned.” The protocol, entitled Standard Operating Procedure 303 (SOP 303) has been the subject of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation since February 2013, when EPIC filed suit after the denial by DHS of EPIC’s July 10, 2012 FOIA request for release of SOP 303 and related documentation.

In its Supreme Court petition, EPIC argues that, “[a]bsent Supreme Court review, the decision of the court of appeals could transform the FOIA from a disclosure to a withholding statute.”

At stake in this case is the release of a meaningfully complete copy of SOP 303—a document that is vitally important to the public’s right to the underlying policy that regulates the deprival of vital communications services. This case also importantly requests the Supreme Court to affirm a disputed, important point of law that EPIC argues was incorrectly applied by the court of appeals: whether Freedom of Information Act exemptions be “given a narrow compass” in light of the FOIA’s “goal of broad disclosure.” Specifically at issue is the scope of application of FOIA Exemption 7(F), which permits withholding of law enforcement information that, if released, “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”

In its petition, EPIC challenges the appeals court’s broad interpretation of Exemption 7(F). In EPIC’s view, that broad interpretation is in contravention to earlier Supreme Court precedent that FOIA exemptions be “given a narrow compass” in light of “the Act’s goal of broad disclosure.” EPIC argues that the appeals court decision “is contrary to the intent of Congress, this Court’s precedent, and this Court’s specific guidance on statutory interpretation.”

One of the countervailing considerations that DHS previously-asserted in this case was that it is entitled to invoke Exemption 7(F) to protect “any individual’ reasonably at risk of harm”. It also previously argued that it is entitled to substantially withhold SOP 303 because its release poses a concrete and non-speculative danger to numerous albeit unspecified individuals, and because there is a direct nexus between disclosure and a reasonable possibility of personal harm.

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1 Response to THERE MAY BE HOPE YET

  1. bobf says:

    The government wants control over the internet.

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