[Privsec] EFF reaches out to D.C. with new office

Robert Guerra rguerra at lists.privaterra.org
Fri Apr 28 17:51:32 BST 2006

Thought this news might be of interest...




EFF reaches out to D.C. with new office

By Declan McCullagh

Story last modified Thu Apr 27 13:59:35 PDT 2006

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the original digital rights group,
is venturing inside the Beltway once again.

EFF has hired two attorneys experienced in suing the federal government
under the Freedom of Information Act and plans to open an office in
downtown Washington, D.C., on Aug. 1.

"There are a lot of meetings that we get invited to that we're not able
to attend" because the nonprofit has its headquarters in San Francisco,
said Shari Steele, EFF's executive director.
Marcia Hofmann Marcia Hofmann

One of EFF's new hires is expected to be Marcia Hofmann, staff counsel
at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who has made headlines for
suing the U.S. Justice Department and Homeland Security in an effort to
document government wrongdoing and privacy invasions. A lawsuit
currently in progress attempts to force the Bush administration to
reveal documents about allegedly illegal surveillance conducted by the
National Security Agency.

The other new hire is expected to be David Sobel, EPIC's general counsel
and an FOIA litigator since 1982, who will work part-time. Sobel
declined to discuss the move but did say that "the first
Internet-related FOIA work I did was made possible by EFF"--a reference
to the Sun Devil case that involved a Secret Service raid on Steve
Jackson Games in 1990.

Opening an office inside the nation's capital comes as something of a
surprise because EFF suffered an internal schism when it was based there
in the early 1990s.

When the FBI was pressing for the Communications Assistance for Law
Enforcement Act (CALEA) in 1994, other privacy groups, such as the
American Civil Liberties Union and EPIC, remained steadfastly opposed to
the measure. CALEA requires telecommunications companies to design their
networks to be explicitly wiretap-friendly.

EFF Policy Director Jerry Berman, a longtime Washington hand, let EFF
endorse what he described as a compromise proposal that was more
privacy-sensitive. "A number of procedural safeguards are added which
seek to minimize the threats to privacy, security and innovation,"
Berman told a House of Representatives panel in September 1994. (Twelve
years later, CALEA is causing new headaches for broadband providers and
Internet telephony services.)

Many of EFF's supporters viewed that as an example of an advocacy group
that had been led astray by Washington, and the group moved to its
current home of San Francisco the following year. Berman and EFF's
policy arm left and created the Washington-based Center for Democracy
and Technology.

"I don't anticipate that we're going to have the same kind of issues,
which had a lot more to do with lobbying and Washington politics and
compromising principles," EFF's Steele said this week. "I don't see any
of that happening."

In the last few years, EFF has been busy on projects including opposing
what the group calls overly restrictive copyright laws, advocating for
free speech rights including in a case brought by Apple Computer, and
suing AT&T over its alleged involvement with NSA surveillance. EFF's
budget in 2003 was about $2 million, according to a CNET News.com report.

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