Earlier this month, the ACLU published a cache of documents about warrantless data collection from the Department of Justice and other agencies, requested and received under the Freedom of Information Act. Some of these documents reveal that the FBI has maintained it has the right to access email from third-party services like Google without a warrant. In others, though, the Department of Justice complied with the letter of the law more than the spirit. Two of the documents, totaling 69 pages, are completely redacted: other than the titles, page numbers, and some other metadata, you'll find only solid black boxes.

One of the documents is entitled "Guidance for the Minimization of Text Messages over Dual-Function Cellular Telephones," while the other provides guidance on landmark data-collection case United States vs. Antoine Jones, a decision that changed how the FBI could legally use things like GPS trackers. The documents' contents are clearly considered classified, but they were published only a few days before US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth criticized his compatriots for uncritically approving requests to keep such data confidential.

"Most judges give almost blind deference on Exemption 1 claims," Lamberth said at a legal training conference in Virginia. He cited "a couple of really horrible examples" of misconduct in the intelligence community — actions that might have been caught sooner had FOIA requests taken precedence over the desire for secrecy.

Totally Redacted FOIA response by kmanguward