By Ellen Nakashima,, 4-28-20

The public has a right to know a court’s reasons for restraining the government’s power to force a tech company to break its encryption to help law enforcement, the ACLU and The Washington Post told a federal appeals court on Tuesday.

But an attorney for the Justice Department argued that unsealing a lower court opinion in a case involving Facebook’s encrypted messaging app Messenger would harm an ongoing prosecution in California.

At issue is access to a September 2018 sealed opinion by a federal judge denying the government’s request to compel Facebook under the Wiretap Act to break the encryption on its popular Messenger app so that authorities could wiretap the calls of members of the MS-13 criminal gang.

The ACLU and The Post sued the Justice Department two months later for disclosure of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in the Eastern District of California.  According to subsequent court filings, the government had sought to hold Facebook in contempt for resisting its request to undermine the app’s encryption.  » Read More