A new lawsuit may have what other cases don't: official records about those under surveillance.
Of all the lawsuits seeking to halt the National Security Agency's program to eavesdrop on certain Americans' electronic communications, a new one filed last week in Oregon may provide the federal courts with the most detailed glimpse yet into the clandestine counterterrorism effort.
The biggest challenge for such cases - which have also been filed in New York, Michigan, and California - is that plaintiffs don't have access to records of highly classified government surveillance activities and therefore can't be sure they were personally subjected to covert phone- tapping or e-mail reading by the US government.
The Oregon suit may manage to leap over that imposing legal hurdle. Lawyers and their clients apparently have seen phone logs and other top-secret records inadvertently provided, and then hastily recovered, by government officials.
"In the [court] motion there is material under seal, which we will rely on in our case," says lawyer Tom Nelson in Portland, who represents an Oregon group tied to a now-defunct Islamic charity in Saudi Arabia and two Washington lawyers who allege they were wiretapped without warrant under the National Security Agency (NSA) program.
"We can't get into what's there," says Mr. Nelson. "But we have very specific information on what happened, when it happened, and what was intercepted. We obviously think it will be helpful in court in proving our contention."
Similar cases have been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Their aim is to stop a controversial domestic-surveillance program that raises questions - in Congress and among the public - about how far national security efforts can impinge on individual privacy.