FISA Court Denies Public Access To Spy Law Proceedings
ACLU Criticizes Decision That Will Allow Constitutionality Of Government Surveillance To Be Decided In Secret
WASHINGTON - In
a decision issued late Thursday, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Court (FISC) judge denied a motion from the American Civil Liberties
Union seeking to bring a measure of transparency to the court's legal
review of the Bush administration's new spying law.
On July 10, less than two hours
after the president signed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) into law, the
ACLU filed legal papers asking the FISC to ensure that any proceedings
it might conduct relating to the scope, meaning or constitutionality of
the FAA be open to the public to the extent possible. The ACLU also
asked the secret court to allow it to file a brief and participate in
oral arguments, to order the government to file a public version of its
briefs addressing the law's constitutionality and to publish any
judicial decision that is ultimately issued. The FISC oversees
intelligence surveillance, typically operates in secret and hears
arguments only from the government.
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
"It's disappointing that the
intelligence court intends to adjudicate these important legal issues
in complete secrecy. The new surveillance law affects all of us because
it allows the executive branch virtually unfettered access to the
international telephone and email communications of U.S. citizens and
residents. The Bush administration says that the new law is necessary
to protect the country against terrorism, but there's nothing in the
law that prevents the government from monitoring the communications of
innocent Americans. Especially given the serious questions about the
new law's constitutionality, the court's consideration of these issues
should be adversarial and as transparent and informed as possible. The
intelligence court should not be deciding important constitutional
issues in secret judicial opinions issued after secret hearings at
which only the government is permitted to appear."
Thursday's FISC decision, which is signed by Judge Mary A. McLaughlin, is available here: www.aclu.org/safefree/
When the ACLU filed its motion with
the FISC, it also filed a separate legal challenge to the new law in
the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
More information about that legal challenge is available online at: www.aclu.org/faa
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