FISA Court Denies Public Access to Records Concerning Wiretapping

December 11, 2007 12:00 am

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Decision Blocks Essential Oversight of Spying Program, ACLU Says

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NEW YORK – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) announced today that it will not make public orders and legal papers pertaining to the scope of the government’s authority to engage in the secret wiretapping of Americans.

This is only the third time the FISC has issued an opinion publicly and the first time it has ruled on a substantive motion made by any party other than the government.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a request for the documents with the FISC in August following passage of the Protect America Act, a law that vastly expands the Bush administration’s authority to conduct warrantless wiretapping of Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails. In attempting to justify passage of the law, the president and members of Congress publicly made repeated veiled references to orders issued by the FISC earlier this year.

Today the FISC ruled that, despite the fact that release of the orders would inform the public about the government’s surveillance powers, the court would not conduct a review to determine whether the legal rulings were properly determined to be classified.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

“The decision is disappointing, both in its reasoning and its result. A federal court’s interpretation of federal law should not be kept secret from the American public. The Bush administration is seeking expanded surveillance powers from Congress because of the rulings issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court earlier this year. Under this decision, those rulings may remain secret forever.”

A copy of the court’s decision is available at:

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