Thursday, December 13, 2007

Surveillance Court Declines to Release Secret Opinions

While not a surprise, this news is a disappointment. Despite the ACLU's best efforts, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has refused to release documents related to two past opinions it has given on the legality of the Bush administration wiretapping program.

The two decisions in question conflicted with one another, with the first seeming to give the administration more leeway in its continuation of the program it had been secretly conducting without court approval, while the second one was more restrictive.

The New York Times reports:

When Congress began debating changes in August, the civil liberties union asked the court to release the two opinions, arguing that the public had a right to know the court’s legal reasoning in the midst of a Congressional debate on the issue. The court’s presiding judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, said then that it would consider the request, which she called “unprecedented.” In its own brief filed with the court, the administration opposed disclosure of the documents.


But, Judge Bates said, such benefits do not outweigh the government’s need or right to keep the material classified. Disclosure, he said, could allow the nation’s enemies to avoid detection and might compromise American intelligence activities. The potential damage is “real and significant, and, quite frankly, beyond debate,” the judge wrote.


Jameel Jaffer, director of the National Security Project at the A.C.L.U., said in an interview that he was disappointed. “A federal court’s interpretation of federal law should not be kept secret,” Mr. Jaffer said.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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