Surveillance court orders transparency review of its NSA opinions

The court tells government agencies to review its own orders related to the legality of telephone records collection

A U.S. surveillance court has ordered government agencies to review the court's own opinions related to the legality of a massive telephone records collection program at the U.S. National Security Agency in preparation for possible publication of those opinions.

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on Friday ordered U.S. government lawyers and intelligence officials to review the court's opinions related to the scope and constitutionality of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the statute that the NSA has cited as its authority for its mass collection of U.S. telephone records in recent years.

At the request of the American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Access Information Clinic, the court ordered the U.S. government to review the court's opinions for possible declassification, giving lawyers until Oct. 4 to do so.

Despite government objections about the ACLU's standing in the case, the civil rights group does have an interest in seeing the court decisions, wrote FISC Judge Dennis Saylor.

"The ACLU's active participation in the legislative and public debates about the proper scope of Section 215 and the advisability of amending that provision is obvious from the public record and not reasonably in dispute," Saylor wrote. "Nor is it disputed that access to the Section 215 Opinions would assist the ACLU in that debate."

The ACLU praised the court's decision. "We are pleased that the surveillance court has recognized the importance of transparency to the ongoing public debate about the NSA's spying," Alex Abdo, attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said in a statement. "For too long, the NSA's sweeping surveillance of Americans has been shrouded in unjustified secrecy. Today's ruling is an overdue rebuke of that practice. Secret law has no place in our democracy."

Representatives of the NSA and the U.S. Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on Friday's court order.

Friday's order doesn't cover opinions requested by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in October 2011 in a New York court. The ACLU had requested a wider release of documents in this request to the FISC.

This week, the ODNI released several FISC opinions addressing NSA violations of court-imposed limits on its surveillance programs.

The government has agreed to release more documents in October.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Tags telecommunicationU.S. National Security AgencyU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtDennis SaylorinternetU.S. Office of Director of National IntelligencegovernmentYale Law School’s Media Freedom and Access Information ClinicprivacyAmerican Civil Liberties UnionsecurityAlex Abdo

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?