In celebration of Sunshine Week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today launched a sophisticated search tool that allows the public to closely examine thousands of pages of documents the organization has pried loose from secretive government agencies. The documents relate to a wide range of cutting-edge technology issues and government policies that affect civil liberties and personal privacy.
EFF's document collection -- obtained through requests and litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) -- casts light on several controversial government initiatives, including the FBI's Investigative Data Warehouse and DCS 3000 surveillance program, and the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Targeting System and ADVISE data-mining project. The documents also provide details on Justice Department collection of communications routing data, Pentagon monitoring of soldiers' blogs, mismatches in the Terrorist Screening Center's watchlist, and FBI misuse of its national security letter subpoena authority.
The new search capability enables visitors to EFF's website to conduct keyword searches across the universe of government documents obtained by EFF, maximizing the value of the material.
"Until recently, documents obtained under FOIA often gathered dust in filing cabinets," said David Sobel, EFF Senior Counsel and director of the organization's FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) Project. "We believe that government information should be widely available and easy to research, and our new search engine makes that a reality."
EFF is launching the tool during national Sunshine Week, an annual, non-partisan event that promotes government transparency. The celebration is particularly significant this year, because it comes after eight years of a presidential administration that was widely criticized for its secrecy and two months into a new administration that has promised "unprecedented" openness.
"We welcomed President Obama's declaration -- on his first full day in office -- that he will work to make the federal government more open and participatory," EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann said. "There's certainly a lot of work to do -- so much government activity has been hidden from public view in the name of 'national security' and the 'war on terror.'"
For the new FOIA document search tool:
For more on EFF's FLAG Project: