Records Sought on Yahoo’s Email Scans For Feds

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MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Times has asked a federal judge to force production of an order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that requires Yahoo to bulk-scan emails for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Filing suit Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, the complaint comes roughly two months after the Times’ Washington correspondent Charlie Savage submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

Savage’s FOIA request sought the public disclosure of “documents from the [FISC] docket in the case that resulted in an order to Yahoo in or about 2015 directing it to use its email scanning systems to search for a cyber-identifier.”

Reuters reporter Joseph Menn broke the news of Yahoo’s email scanning for U.S. intelligence on Oct. 4, 2016.

Savage filed his request the next day and reported on the issue for The New York Times, saying Yahoo modified a system intended to scan emails for child pornography and spam to search for messages containing a computer “signature” tied to the communications of a state-sponsored terrorist organization.

Two anonymous government sources cited in the article said Yahoo was required to act by secret court order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The modification for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s piggybacked on Yahoo’s already existing malware scan that searches all incoming email, according to the anonymous sources in Savage’s article.

Federal agencies are required to respond to FOIA requests within 20 days.

The New York Times and co-plaintiff Charlie Savage seek “an order compelling DOJ to produce the documents sought by their request” within 20 days of filing the order.

The 5-page complaint also seeks an award of attorneys’ fees for The New York Times. David McCraw at the New York Times Legal Department signed the complaint.

Savage has compiled a list of his multiple open FOIA cases on his official website. The reporter’s 2011 FOIA lawsuit against U.S. Office of Legal Counsel, the Department of Defense and the CIA over “targeted killing” drone strike memos was drawn out in court over four years. 

The Department of Justice has not returned a request for comment.