Declassified documents from a legal showdown between Yahoo lawyers and surveillance judges in Providence, Rhode Island, show panel members brushing off the company’s concerns about infringements on constitutional rights.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released transcripts from a 2008 U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Justice Morris Arnold, one of three members on the panel, asked how Yahoo users are “hurt” by government surveillance.
“We are being asked and compelled to participate in surveillance we believe violates the constitution of the United States,” attorney Marc Zwillinger told the judge, technology website Venture Beat reported Wednesday.
“Well, if this order is enforced and it’s secret, how can you be hurt?” asked Justice Arnold, Venture Beat reported. “The people don’t know they’re being monitored in some way. How can you be harmed by it? What’s the damage to the consumer?”
When Yahoo lawyers said that Americans were well aware the government was spying on them, the judges appeared to make the argument that if spying was ubiquitous across the entire industry, then the damage to Yahoo’s reputation would be negligible.
“I’m having trouble seeing who exactly is hurt here,” said Justice Ralph Winter, Venture Beat reported.
The court ruled against Yahoo on Aug. 22, 2008, but the company cheered after the declassification of the 2008 court documents.
“We are pleased that the transcript of our oral argument challenging the expansion of U.S. surveillance laws is now part of the public record. While our challenge did not succeed, our efforts to make our arguments and those of the U.S. government’s public did, and we consider this an important win for transparency,” Yahoo said Tuesday on its blog.
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