Federal Judge Dismisses NYT’s Freedom of Information Lawsuit

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A federal judge has dismissed a New York Times lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, saying that classified documents the newspaper was seeking under the Freedom of Information Act were properly withheld.

The Times had filed suit in federal court in Manhattan in April 2006 against the two departments over their refusal to hand over documents in connection to the government’s warrant-free eavesdropping program.

In a decision filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said the government was justified in not handing over classified material under arguments that it fell under exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, including attorney-client privilege and presidential communications privilege.

The judge, who reviewed government descriptions of the classified material, agreed with government arguments that the departments didn’t have to turn over the papers because of reasons including protecting the confidentiality of how the United States gets it intelligence information.

The judge’s decision applied to classified material; he asked for additional filings from the departments on the unclassified material and said he would make a decision after reviewing those submissions.

The wiretap program allows the National Security Agency to monitor communications into and out of the United States when links to terrorism are suspected. Breaking with historic norms, President Bush allowed the NSA to conduct the surveillance without first getting court approval.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment further Monday. A telephone call to the Department of Defense seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The New York Times did not immediately respond to an e-mail and phone messages seeking comment.

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