Privacy group sues for information on email surveillance

A privacy advocacy group is suing the Justice Department for access to reports on a National Security Agency program that collected Internet records in bulk.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act on Monday for the semiannual reports, which contain statistics on the now-discontinued surveillance program.

The NSA has acknowledged that it collected Internet "metadata," such as the "to" and "from" in emails as well as the time and date of emails. The program did not collect the contents of Internet communications.

The director of national intelligence said the program was discontinued in 2011 because it "was no longer meeting the operational expectations that NSA had for it." 

The Internet data collection was conducted under Section 402 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): "the pen register and trap and trace" provision. 

FISA requires that the Justice Department provide semiannual reports to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the use of the pen register, and trap and trace provision.

The reports likely include statistics about the scope of the bulk surveillance program.

EPIC is asking for an expedited ruling within 20 days to order the Justice Department to release the documents.

A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to a request to comment on the lawsuit.