Secrecy News

ACLU Seeks Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Records

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an unusual motion (pdf) with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking public disclosure of recent Court orders interpreting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the law that regulates warrantless surveillance within the United States.

“Over the next six months, Congress and the public will debate the wisdom and necessity of permanently expanding the executive’s authority to conduct intrusive forms of surveillance without judicial oversight,” the ACLU motion stated, referring to the debate over the recent amendments to the FISA that will sunset in six months if they are not renewed.

“Unless this Court releases the sealed materials, this debate will take place in a vacuum.”

“Publication of the sealed materials would assist the public in evaluating the significance of recent amendments to FISA and determining for itself whether those amendments should be made permanent,” the ACLU argued.

A copy of the August 8 ACLU Motion for Release of Court Records is posted here.

An ACLU press release on the motion is here.

The ACLU motion admitted that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s docket “consists mainly of material that is properly classified.” However, it noted, “on at least two occasions in the past, this Court has recognized the public interest in the Court’s [activities] and has accordingly published its rulings.”

“Disclosure of the sealed materials, with redactions to protect information that is properly classified, would be consistent with the Court’s past practice and procedural rules,” the ACLU said.